Four weeks after demonstrating an inability to properly manage the tick-tick-tick moments of a key game on a big stage against the Patriots, the Steelers once again showed that situational football is not the coaching staff’s strong suit.
This isn’t about the two failed fourth-and-one calls or the decision to call for an onside kick or the failure to use one of two remaining time outs after a first-down play with 2:18 to play became the two-minute warning. This is about what happened after a 42-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant put the ball on the Jacksonville five with 47 seconds to play.
Down 10, from the five. That close to the end zone, it was worth taking a shot at the touchdown. But after an intentional grounding foul moved the ball back to the 15 and took an extra 10 seconds off the clock (leaving it at 32 seconds), the Steelers should have kicked the field goal, tried another onside kick, and hoped that some of the same magic that played out in Minnesota would have happened in the stadium that’s a stone’s throw from the site of the Immaculate Reception.
Instead, Roethlisberger threw an 11-yard pass to receiver Antonio Brown, who was tackled in bounds. Tick. Tick. Tick.
The next play started with 10 seconds left. After an incompletion to tight end Xavier Grimble, four seconds remained. On fourth and goal, the Steelers scored. And no time was left on the clock.
Either way, a score and a successful onside kick was needed. Once 47 seconds became 32 and the field position became the 15 instead of the five, the three-pointer would have made much more sense. Especially since the next play finished in bounds, with 22 seconds evaporating until the next play started.
If that was the plan, it was a bad one. Based on what happened at the end of the game against the Patriots, there’s a chance that there was no plan at all.