This is not like the Bill Belichick decision a few weeks ago, when the coach went for it on 4th and 2 from their own 28. That decision (I still contend) was a good one, regardless of the outcome. Tomlin's call for an on-side with 3:58 left in the 4th quarter, after his team had just taken a 2-point lead, was a case of over-coaching. The Steelers failed to recover, and Green Bay converted the short field into 8 points. But Tomlin's offense bailed him out with a last-second touchdown.
In some ways, I am very results-oriented when it comes to coaching decisions. If you want to go for it on 4th down deep in your own territory in the 2nd quarter of a game, no problem - but it had better work. If you want to open the game with an on-side kick (like Andy Reid did a few weeks ago against the Redskins), go ahead, but your team better recover (Reid's team didn't, and the momentum swing nearly carried the Redskins to an upset win). The Belichick call to go for it was the right call (my opinion), and therefore not subject to second-guessing. It's like a poker hand - rarely is it a bad idea to go all-in preflop with ace-king; so if you lose the hand, it doesn't mean you made a bad play. But if you go all-in with seven-deuce .... it had better work. It's never the right decision, but the cards can bail you out. Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace flopped trips for Tomlin, with their last second touchdown.
Here was Tomlin's explanation:
"I'll be very bluntly honest with you, based on the way the game was going in the second half, first of all I thought with the element of surprise we had a chance to get it, but if we didn't get it and they were to score, then we would have necessary time on the clock to score or match their score. Plan A didn't work, we got the ball but we were illegal, that was the correct call, but it kind of unfolded the way you envisioned it.
"We had 30 minutes of evidence that we could drive the ball on them, we also conversely had 30 minutes of evidence to show they could also drive the ball on us. That's why we took the risk when we did. We were just trying to win the football game. There was time left in that game that had we kicked that ball away and the half had gone the way that it'd gone, they were converting third downs. They would have moved the ball down the field on us, we wouldn't have had necessary time to respond. I'm just being honest, but it starts with feeling pretty good about the element of surprise and having a good chance to get that ball, but that part of it didn't work out."
If you thought Belichick was throwing his defense under the bus against the Colts, that was nothing compared to this. Aaron Rogers is no Peyton Manning, and I love Aaron Rogers. But you have to make Rogers prove it; he made his 30th start yesterday and his team's record in those games is 15-15. I know what Peyton Manning can do; I think I know what Aaron Rogers can do, but he has to prove it to me.
Now in Tomlin's defense, the play should have worked - except that Ike Taylor got a little too anxious and grabbed the ball a yard shy of the 10-yard mark (how many times do we see that happen in these situations). The Steelers had lost five games in a row, and I think Tomlin was trying to do whatever he could to break that losing streak. But just as we accuse players of trying to do too much sometimes, in this case the head coach tried to do too much. The difference was, the bad decision didn't lead to a loss. At least not this time.