Tomlin Defends Late-Game Tactics

As with any loss in the final seconds, there are questions. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin answered them at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

Mike Tomlin defended his tactics two days after his Steelers blew a late lead and lost a game and the division lead to the Baltimore Ravens.

The two controversial topics involved his perceived indecision on fourth-and-5 from the Baltimore 30 with 2:34 and two timeouts remaining with a 20-16 lead, and then his use of bump-and-run defensive pass coverage against the Ravens on third-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 26 with 16 seconds remaining.

The Ravens won the game with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to rookie Torrey Smith on a fly pattern with eight seconds left.

"I did not understand those last three plays from about the 25-yard line," said NBC-TV analyst Tony Dungy immediately after the game.

"Bump-and-run coverage, really giving them a chance, as Flacco said, to take those shots into the end zone where you get a chance for a long pass interference penalty or throw the deep touchdown. I didn't understand the defense the Steelers were in there at the end."

The Ravens got both a touchdown pass against the Steelers, and an interference penalty against cornerback William Gay that more than likely made moot Ryan Clark's late help over the top.

Tomlin defended himself Tuesday at his weekly press conference against the criticism from his former mentor.

"Guys like Tony and others were patting us on the back a week ago for doing similar things," said Tomlin. "So I don't worry about what they say. We were just playing within our strengths."

The Steelers beat the New England Patriots the previous week with a heavy dose of bump-and-run coverage, but the late-game circumstances were far different since the Patriots had only one play from their own 22 with 19 seconds remaining.

One similarity in that game was that the Steelers faced a fourth-and-3 at the New England 26 with 6:10 remaining. Placekicker Shaun Suisham missed a 44-yard field goal attempt that would've given the Steelers a 16-point lead.

Suisham is 0 for 3 in the 40-49 range at Heinz Field this year, and wasn't given another chance against Baltimore, even though he was sent on to the field for what seemed to be a 47-yard attempt on fourth-and-5 with a four-point lead and 2:34 remaining.

The Steelers were whistled for delay of game and then punted. Tomlin's explanation Tuesday was unclear.

"What we were attempting to do," he said. "We were going to utilize the cadence like we had down in Arizona to pick up an extra five (yards). I was explaining that process to Jeremy Kapinos and quite simply didn't get it lined up in time."

There was not a fake involving special teams at Arizona, and tape of the Baltimore game merely shows Tomlin waving his field-goal unit to the field. But …

"We weren't interested in doing that [field goal] again because we had a four-point lead and knew if we punted the ball and punted it well they would be 90-plus yards from paydirt, and I like our defense under those circumstances, then and today."

On the injury front, as the Steelers prepare to travel to Cincinnati to play the 6-2 Bengals, the Steelers will be without wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had his knee 'scoped and "should be out a couple of weeks," according to Tomlin, who added that punter Daniel Sepulveda also underwent surgery to fix partially torn meniscus in his knee. Sepulveda is on injured reserve.

Tomlin also said the following players will be monitored this week because of minor injuries: WR Jerricho Cotchery (swelling in knee), ILB Stevenson Sylvester (swelling in knee), WR Hines Ward (concussion-like symptoms "shouldn't slow him down"), OLB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), ILB James Farrior (calf) and WR Arnaz Battle (hamstring).


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