Mike Tomlin gives mind-bogglingly poor excuse for Steelers bizarre fourth-down call

Mike Tomlin's excuse for the crucial call on 4th-and-1 is hard to stomach.
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Chris Unger/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't seem to have a chance to pull off a win against the Texans with the way they played on Sunday. They were humiliated on both sides of the football, and nobody outside of Najee Harris showed up to play football. At the same time, Pittsburgh had a chance to shift the tides with a critical fourth-down play.

With just over a minute remaining in the third quarter, Mike Tomlin elected to go for it on Houston's 33-yard line on 4th and 1. However, the Steelers couldn't have drawn up a worse play for the circumstance.

Despite having virtually no success through the air and with Najee Harris running well, Kenny Pickett went into shotgun formation, and a passing play was called that didn't even include so much as a play-action look. With nobody open, Pickett scrambled to his left and was sacked. In the process, his left leg was trapped underneath the defender and he suffered a bone bruise and knee strain.

While some of this is on Pickett, there's no doubt this injury could have been avoided if the Steelers had not made such a bone-headed decision on fourth down. During his Tuesday press conference, Mike Tomlin was asked about this questionable decision.

Instead of owning up to the terrible play design and the bad call in the situation, Tomlin gave the worst excuse imaginable for his reasoning behind the call. The Steelers head coach claimed that they didn't run the football on 4th and 1 because LT Dan Moore Jr. and TE Pat Freiermuth were not on the field.

This response is mind-boggling. Has Tomlin been watching film on his own team?

Steelers have no real excuse for their sad fourth-down call

These two Steelers starters were injured, yes, but Moore might be the worst starting offensive tackle in the NFL so far this year, while Pat Freiermuth (a quality tight end) is playing poorly so far this season and has been abysmal as a blocker in 2023.

However, the Steelers did have rookies Broderick Jones and Darnell Washington on the field at the time. Jones is extremely raw, but he's instantly an improvement as a run blocker over Dan Moore. Ditto for Washington, who is already heads and shoulders above Freiermuth when it comes to blocking.

This was such a sad excuse not to run the ball down the throat of the defense on 4th and 1. At the time, the Pittsburgh Steelers were down just 16 to 6. With the first down, Pickett and company would have entered scoring range with a chance to punch in a touchdown and make it a three-point game.

Though the Steelers may have lost the game anyway, this was without a doubt the turning point, and a potentially serious injury to Pickett could have been avoided if the play call wasn't so bad in this situation.


It seems like Tomlin is making excuses for Matt Canada at this point. In the same Tuesday presser, Tomlin also noted that he has no thought of moving on from his OC 'at this juncture.'

This egregious excuse for his decision in a crucial moment of the game cannot slip through the cracks without being noticed. Both Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada deserve every bit of criticism coming their way for this.

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