A gutsy and right call

Mike Tomlin's onside kick call was the right call to make in desperate times.

That onside kick that Mike Tomlin attempted in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers showed exactly where the Steelers head coach is when it comes to his team's defense.

He doesn't trust the defense to stop anybody.

Not that he should after watching it blow fourth quarter leads again and again this season.

In fact, as soon as the Steelers attempted the onside kick with 3:58 remaining while clinging to a 30-28 lead, I remarked that it was probably a good thing since Green Bay would score a little more quickly and give Pittsburgh offense an opportunity to answer.

Tomlin then confirmed my initial thought following the game.

Based on what he had seen Sunday - and let's face it, throughout this season - he didn't trust the defense to keep the Packers from taking the lead. So he rolled the dice.

Had Ike Taylor not touched the ball before it had gone 10 yards, it would have been a great call. Even though the Steelers didn't get the ball, it was a gutsy call.

Based on what Tomlin had seen of Green Bay's supposedly stout defense, there was nothing that showed the Packers could stop the Steelers.

Though Ben Roethlisberger waited until the final play of the game to make Tomlin look smart, he did so.

It was a good call to make. It was the right call to make, even if it had backfired as it did on Bill Belichick earlier this season.

© The biggest question for the Steelers this week will be whether Troy Polamalu returns to play against the Ravens or not.

We've seen enough of Tyrone Carter missing tackles and blowing coverages to this point to realize that he's no Polamalu. Heck, he's not even Lee Flowers.

Polamalu's return, however, would help the rest of that secondary as well.

Quarterbacks have nobody to fear in that secondary except fear itself.

Conversely, you can tell that these defensive backs are playing with the same kind of confidence that Tomlin showed in them Sunday - none.

© How to explain a team that has now beaten Minnesota, Green Bay, San Diego and Denver, yet lost to Oakland, Cleveland and Kansas City.

When you play up or down to the competition, it's going to bite you.

Play up to the level of competition against a good team and you might win.

Play down to the level of a bad team and you give that team confidence the longer you allow it to hang around.

That's what's so frustrating about this year's Steelers. They can play with any team in the NFL. And they've also proven they can lose to any team in the NFL.

© Long-snapper Greg Warren suffered what it believed to be a torn ACL on the final play of the game, Jeff Reed's PAT.

That could be a big loss. The Steelers have a week to work out new long-snappers, but you have to wonder at this point, who's available - and in game shape.

© Hines Ward was really hurting in the locker room after this game, though you wouldn't have known it from his effort on the field.

That's the kind of thing that young players look at and learn from.

It's something Jerome Bettis used to do on a regular basis. He would take a beating on Sundays that were so bad, he had trouble getting out of bed the next day. You'd see Bettis with his shirt off after a game and his torso would look like somebody had beaten him with a two-by-four.

Yet he kept battling every week like a warrior. Ward has some of that in him as well.

I remember talking to Richard Huntley about it one time and he marveled at how Bettis played through injuries.

"He'll play with broken ribs and stuff like that," said Huntley. "$%#@ that."

It's no wonder Huntley didn't last long in the league.

© Charles Woodson has been touted as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for this season, but I'm sorry, I don't see it.

I've been fortunate enough to cover two players who have won that award, Rod Woodson in 1993 and James Harrison last season. Neither had a game in those seasons like Woodson did Sunday.

The final stat sheet showed Woodson credited with a team-high nine tackles. And while that's all well and good, he was also penalized once for pass interference and twice for defensive holding.

Sorry, that's not player-of-the-year-type stuff.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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