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Put the Pitchforks Down!!!


A picture is worth a thousand words. Photo by Jerad Wickerham/Getty Images

First off, that this was the toughest Steelers loss that I have experienced in quite a while. Afterwards, I could not fall asleep, because I kept replaying the last portion of the game over and over in my head. I tried to distract myself by reading funny memes… to no avail, because something and everything would undoubtedly remind me just how awful that loss was. Inevitably, I reverted back to perusing message board posts and/or comments at the bottom of articles, almost as though I was a glutton for punishment. Astonishingly, as hard as I took that loss, some of you out there might need to see a therapist. Seriously, a few fans need to step back and say to themselves: “It was only a game.”

I understand that this was a difficult loss to take. It was a very winnable game, which somehow slipped through the Steelers’ fingers. Ouch. It was a loss to the hated Ravens. Double ouch. And, it could have been a victory if any number of a handful of plays had occurred differently. Ouch, ouch… uncle!!!

So, I understand why the angst is out there, and I empathize with those looking for a lightning rod for their rage. But, in reality, we need to reign in our anger, and accept the loss. Blaming and finger pointing does no good. In fact, let me go scapegoat by scapegoat, and tell you why they do not really deserve to be metaphorically lynched.

Michael Vick played about as well as you could have expected him to play. He did not turn the ball over, he did not try to be the hero, and he relied on his weapons. Alas, he is simply not a very good quarterback. But, for those wishing to place the onus of blame upon his shoulders, expecting anything more than what he gave us is a fantasy. That was about as good as Vick was going to be. Sure, Vick overthrew a routine pass to Antonio Brown on Pittsburgh’s second fourth-down attempt in overtime, which would have probably won the game, but the game should never have come down to that play to begin with.

Speaking of that fourth down pass to Antonio Brown, it was not a great pass, but it would have been nice to see Brown make that reception. You can sit there and tell me that it was improbable that he would have caught it, and you would be right… but, not because it was uncatchable; you would be right, because Brown simply had an off night. On any other night, I guarantee that Antonio makes that catch. Just like how on any other night, he drags his second foot on that deep sideline pass in the third quarter. Just like how on any other night, Brown catches that touchdown in the end zone. Instead, those three plays resulted in: a turnover on downs, a punt, and another punt. For the fans wanting to crucify AB, realize that even on an “off” night, he was still the best stat-line of any Steelers receiver… while simultaneously being double-covered all game long. So, yeah, I am not going to call Antonio a goat.

Speaking of false focal points for hate, the defense played well enough to win. Yes, when Cam Thomas was in the Ravens could seemingly run the ball at will. But on the flip side, not only did the Steelers’ defense sack Joe Flacco more times than he had been sacked in a game in five seasons, they also created two turnovers. Regardless, what matters most is that on the Ravens’ final seven drives, the Steelers’ defense only allowed nine points:

–stopped the Ravens on fourth down
–after a long drive, they held the Ravens to a field goal
–stopped the Ravens on fourth down
–stopped the Ravens on fourth down
–allowed the game-tying field goal
–forced a three-and-out
–allowed the game-winning field goal

Conversely, in the interim, the Steelers’ offense could not score any points. Mind you that during this same time-frame, the Steelers’ offense possessed the ball in field goal range three times, and on one other drive they were on the cusp. On those four possessions, they easily could have matched the nine points scored by the Ravens… or, better yet, the Steelers could have won the game. Instead, the Steelers missed two field goals and did not convert two fourth downs.

On the topic of those fourth downs, some fans want to crucify Mike Tomlin for not kicking the field goal in overtime. Honestly, after the first missed field goal, I was ready to go for it on fourth down (as opposed to attempting the second field goal)… and, after the second missed field goal, going with Scobee never even crossed my mind. Not. For. A. Millisecond. Which is why it boggles my mind that people are actually trouncing Tomlin for not going for the field goal. Of course, if he had gone for the field goal and Scobee missed, these same people would be angered that he did not go for it on fourth down. It seems that some fans just simply do not like Mike Tomlin and will attack him for any reason.

I will die on that hill defending Tomlin on the decision to go for it on fourth down. That said, the plays that were called on fourth down can indeed be questioned to a degree. The first play was a designed run by Vick. It was similar to an earlier play where Bell got the ball. The idea being that the defenders would follow Bell, instead of Vick. Unfortunately, Heath Miller missed a block, and Ramon Foster got backed into Vick’s running lane… which made him side step for a moment; in turn, he was not directly behind Kelvin Beachum, but instead Vick was a few yards behind, where the defenders swarmed on him. The play would have worked, if it had been executed correctly. Likewise, as we have already discussed, the fourth down throw to Antonio Brown was a good play-call that simply was not completed.

Some might still question those play-calls, preferring to go with Le’Veon Bell. To some degree I agree. Bell was the best player on the field that night. That said, I take the disgruntled comments with a grain of salt. These same people aver that Tomlin called too many running plays in the game… and yet, they want a running play on that particular down. Well, which is it: too many running plays, or, not enough running plays? Before I even start to figure out their rationale, I remind myself that some fans just simply do not like Mike Tomlin, and will attack him for any reason.

In summation, after hashing all of this out, I guess that I am not any better than those who are calling for Vick to be benched, disappointed with Brown, screaming at the defense, and hypercriticizing Tomlin… because, I blame all of this on Josh Scobee. If he makes either field goal, it is an entirely different ballgame (and, if he makes both, the Steelers win). That said, please allow me to clarify one thing: while I blame Scobee for the loss, I am not one of those troglodytes who was wishing harm upon him and his family. I get it. The loss was frustrating, but in all seriousness: it is only a game. So, please, stop garbaging up message boards and flooding Twitter with hate and vitriol. We are Steelers fans… not Patriots fans.

Tiger is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh