PITTSBURGH — Of the plethora of things that did not go well for the Steelers on Sunday in the team’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, one particular piece of head coach Mike Tomlin’s strategy in the second half did not go well for Pittsburgh.
After falling into a 28-0 hole early, the Steelers fought back in the third quarter. The Browns to the kickoff and were forced to punt after seven plays. The Steelers went on a scoring drive capped by a Ben Roethlisberger to Eric Ebron touchdown pass.
The Browns then went three-and-out, and the Steelers went 68 yards in 12 plays to payday, with Roethlisberger fining JuJu Smith-Schuster in the end zone.
The Steelers trailed by just 12 at that point and after the defense forced yet another three-and-out punt by the Browns, the Steelers had all the momentum.
But after three plays (all passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster), the Steelers were 1 yard short of the line to gain on their own 46-yard line.
Tomlin elected to punt, first taking a five-yard delay of game penalty to give punter Jordan Berry more room to work with.
Berry booted it 59 yards into the end zone. The Browns took the touchback and went 80 yards in just six plays, with Nick Chubb rolling into the end zone for a backbreaking touchdown.
“We had some stops, wanted to pin them down, maybe provide the short field for our offense,” Tomlin explained after the game. “We had maybe two or three consecutive stops. I just wanted to keep the momentum going in terms of field positioning. But we weren’t good enough in terms of doing that.”
On a night where very little went right for the Steelers, the choice of strategy, and the execution of it, was certainly lacking.