This past Sunday, Jan. 14, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost—no, I correct that—gave away a game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 45-42, at Heinz Field. When all the smoke cleared, the one who almost always has to bear the albatross of any important loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers is none other than the team’s head coach, Mike Tomlin.
Andrew Joseph wrote in an article posted to msn.com, “The Pittsburgh Steelers will spend the next eight months second-guessing every misstep that led to Sunday’s AFC Divisional Round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But this loss should fall squarely on head coach Mike Tomlin.”
Yes, Tomlin went for it on fourth down once, maybe too many times. And he attempted an onside kick near the end of the game, instead of kicking it deep and relying on a defense that had not really stopped the Jaguars all day.
But as my cousin “Mingletoe” from New Orleans used to say, “Like ah, can you dig what I am about to say?” Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger committed a fumble that was returned for a score and threw a pick in his own end that eventually led to another score by Jacksonville. Is there a certain coaching method that Mike Tomlin or his offensive staff employed to instruct Roethlisberger how to fumble, as to allow the opposition to scoop it up and return it for six points? Is there another technique involving “critical thinking” that caused a moment of “brain freeze” at that crucial moment of delusion that convinced Roethlisberger to throw a pick pinned deep in his own end that gave Jacksonville another opportunity to score, which they did on the very next play in that fateful first quarter?
I have said this in the past about Roethlisberger and I am sorely disappointed that I have to repeat it. In spite of all of his late game heroics, Roethlisberger often reminds me of a young arsonist that volunteers for the local fire department, who sets a few fires here and there in order to be afforded the opportunity to be a part of the team that extinguishes the blaze.
The Steelers’ ill-fated onside kick did not lose the game for the Black and Gold. The unsuccessful fourth-down attempts did not assure defeat for the Steelers. If Roethlisberger had been as heroic in the first 10 minutes of the game as he was in the final 10 minutes, Pittsburgh would’ve have won, hands down. Roethlisberger himself had this to say about the loss. “We had a great season, thanks for the ride, (but) it wasn’t enough, and I feel bad for that. I feel like I let a lot of people down, and I’ll take it all on myself. That’s fine. I have no problem with that.”
“Big” Ben may not have a problem with “that,” however, I’m not sure how the rest of Steeler Nation feels.
Oh I forgot, it’s the coaches’ fault, right? Oh well, better luck next time. Oh by the way, I may have been misled to believe that planning is better than luck, good or bad.
The fire of the Steelers’ Super Bowl hopes has now been reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes for Steeler Nation to couple with their drafty sackcloths of grief. There are no more heroics by Roethlisberger looming on the horizon. Luck has fled. Time to go home.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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