The honeymoon is over
I listened to about a half-hour's worth of sports radio this morning, and it sounded like more people were blaming Mike Tomlin's play calling than Ben Rothliesberger's poor first-half performance for the Steelers' heartbreaking loss to Jacksonville last night.
Two decisions stand out: The two-point conversion attempt from the 12 yard line following the holding penalty that wiped out Hines Ward's end zone reception, and the quarterback draw on 3rd-and-6 late in the fourth quarter with the Steelers protecting a one-point lead. A couple of callers accused Tomlin of "playing not to lose" rather than playing to win.
If that was the case, then Tomlin made what I would characterize as a Cowher-esque mistake. Wasn't one of the knocks on Cowher that he wasn't aggressive enough in putting games away? Then again, being overly conservative seems to be a characteristic of a lot of NFL coaches -- why else do so many punt on fourth down when the odds favor going for it?
During Super Bowl XXXVI, John Madden said that the Patriots, with 90 seconds left and no timeouts, should run out the clock and go into overtime. Instead, they drove down the field and got the game-winning field goal. For that matter, doesn't Bill Belichick go for it on fourth down even when he has a comfortable lead? Maybe that's why the Patriots are 16-0 and about to rendevous with history.