Steelers Offense: Should Mike Tomlin Be More Aggressive?


The Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley might call all the plays for the offense (or is it Ben Roethlisberger?), but it’s the head coach who usually makes decisions at critical junctures of a game – like in 4th down situations.

Whether it’s 4th and 1 or 4th and 5, the tv cameras always point at the head coach, as if somehow fans will be able to see what’s going on behind that poker face on the sidelines. Or, maybe it’s to give fans an opportunity to virtually will the head coach to go for it.

Situational fourth downs are so far and few between that they become by and large an afterthought. Can anyone pull off the top of their head the stat for how many times the Steelers went for it in a 4th and ____ situation?

Football Outsiders came up with an Aggressive Index back in 2006. The index is intended to give an indication of a coach’s tendencies based on certain 4th down situations and if they decide to ‘go for it.’ Their 2014 index is out, and it’s a bit surprising to see where Mike Tomlin lands.

According to the index, Tomlin falls just outside of the Top 10 most aggressive coaches.

That comes as a bit of a surprise that he ranks that high, which confirms my suspicion that most folks don’t really remember much about taking chances on 4th down.

Tomlin’s AI (Aggressive Index) is 1.10. The base level of AI is 1.0, so Tomlin is 10% more likely to go for it on 4th down than the ‘average NFL coach’ would in the same/similar situation.

No one is as aggressive as the Saints Sean Payton, who is probably the only coach that people can actually recall as someone who has a tendency to ‘always go for it’ in 4th down situations.

Despite Tomlin’s tendency to already be aggressive in his 4th down situations, should Tomlin be even more aggressive?

Statistics and odds have always shown that coaches should almost always go for it on 4th down. The risk vs. reward factor is astounding, yet coaches usually fall back to playing the ‘game of field position’ and punt that ball away.

Tomlin’s offense was one of the better ones last season, and all signs point that the 2015 offense will be even better.

As a coach who quips in his pressers that one should not coach within their fears, I’d like to think that Tomlin would take more chances on 4th down now that his offensive line is making large leaps forward and that he possesses an arsenal of playmakers to move the chains… obviously.

I’d like to see Tomlin be more aggressive on 4th downs. It all boils down to the right play and the players executing. The team went 5 of 10 last year. 50% isn’t that bad.

What do you think? Should Tomlin move the needle to ‘more aggressive’ in 4th down situations?

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