The Pittsburgh Steelers carried the momentum in the second half against the Cleveland Browns, but head coach Mike Tomlin literally punted it away.
After starting off the first half of the 2020 season with such promise, the Pittsburgh Steelers were sent home way earlier than they expected to. Holding the third-seed, the Steelers lost to the rival and shorthanded Cleveland Browns 48-37 in the Wild Card Round on Sunday.
In the first half, it looked as though the Steelers were going to be blown out by the Browns, but the momentum flipped early in the second half. In the third quarter, Pittsburgh actually cut Cleveland’s lead to 35-23. Facing a fourth-and-one situation, head coach Mike Tomlin opted to take a delay of game penalty before punting the ball back to Cleveland. The Browns would respond immediately with a 40-yard touchdown reception by running back Nick Chubb to extend their lead to 42-23.
When asked about the decision to punt after the game, Tomlin said he chose to do so with the purpose of pinning them in their own territory and to “keep the momentum going in term of field positioning.”
Mike Tomlin on punting on 4th-and-1: "We had some stops. Want to pin them down, provide short field for offense … I just wanted to keep momentum going in terms of field positioning."
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 11, 2021
Steelers fans aren’t going to like that response
Oh yeah, this explanation is sure to fly with frustrated Steelers fans around the nation.
At that point in the contest, it looked as thought the Browns were going to pull an Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 and blow their massive lead. If the Steelers had opted to go for it, we may be looking at a different end result.
The Browns barely got a chance to practice this week due to positive COVID-19 tests forcing the facility to shut down. In fact, the Browns were without head coach Kevin Stefanski, offensive lineman Joe Bitonio, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodges and cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson because of the league’s COVID-19 protocol. With this news, many didn’t think the Browns had a shot at advancing. But all it took was a fumble on the first play of the game by the Steelers to let the Browns prove they were no pushovers.
Tomlin is showing no regrets about his decision, but he’ll have to live with the fact that he might’ve literally punted the game away because of it.