To steal the words from head coach Mike Tomlin, it was another bad day at the office for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14. Even still, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers had a chance to force overtime or even take the lead with a two-minute drive against the New England Patriots.
But Pittsburgh’s final drive before the two-minute warning stalled at the Steelers 49-yard line despite the offense only needing 2 yards for a first down.
The possession ended with incomplete passes on third-and-2 and also fourth-and-2. On the fourth-down pass, Trubisky overthrew Johnson about 30 yards down the sideline.
After the game, Steelers media and fans shared their angry opinions about the play calling and execution on those two plays.
The Amazon Prime Video play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentator Kirk Herbstreit were particularly critical of the Trubisky fourth-down heave.
“I don’t understand that call,” said Herbstreit on the game’s stream.
“Neither do I,” Michaels said. “I mean, that was bizarro.”
After Trubisky’s deep miss on fourth down, the Steelers forced the Patriots to punt. But it was too little, too late for the Pittsburgh offense.
The team’s next possession started at the Steelers 13-yard line with only 15 seconds on the clock and no timeouts. An Allen Robinson catch brought the Steelers to the Patriots 42-yard line as time expired.
With Robinson tackled in the field of play, the Patriots held on to win, 21-18.
Steelers Media, Fans Critical of Mitch Trubisky Fourth-Down Pass
The Steelers started slowly again to a previously 2-10 team on December 7. In the middle of the second quarter, they found themselves down to the Patriots by 18 points.
New England scored 21 points before halftime. The Patriots had just 26 points in their previous three games combined.
The Steelers reached the end zone before halftime to decrease the deficit to 11. But despite trailing the entire second half, Pittsburgh’s passing game was short and horizontal attempts.
That is, until the fourth-and-2 play with the game on the line.
“4th and 2 and Trubisky’s going for the home run,” tweeted Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora. “Unreal. This team can’t figure out a ‘gotta have it play’ to save their life.”
Kozora also posted on X (formerly Twitter) a quote from Trubisky on December 5.
“I like to be aggressive.”
Steelers media and fans all over X argued that fourth-and-2 wasn’t the time to be aggressive.
“Haven’t taken that shot all night, so of course on 4th and 2 with the game on the line, the play is to heave the ball and pray,” Steelers Now’s Nick Farabaugh tweeted. “That sums it up.”
Farabaugh’s colleague at Steelers Now, Alan Saunders, agreed with him.
“Trailing the entire second, they didn’t dial up a single deep shot until the 4th and 2 for the ball game,” Saunders wrote on X. “Steelers offensive play calling was putrid in this game.”
It wasn’t just Steelers media who were critical of the deep fourth-down pass.
“4th & 2. Go route is the call??” asked NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger.
Former Steelers safety and ESPN’s Ryan Clark didn’t like the play call either.
“That’s the fourth and 2 call? Really? Shut the eff up,” Clark tweeted.
Kirk Herbstreit Second-Guesses ‘Low-Percentage Throw’
Again, the deep fourth-down throw initially baffled Herbstreit. He explained on the streaming service why it wasn’t the right decision to go deep in that situation.
“It’s really easy to sit up here and second guess calls, but it’s such a low-percentage throw,” Herbstreit said. “I mean, you got a couple go-balls on the outside. The tight end Freiermuth is locked up. You just throw it and hope.
“I mean, it’s fourth-and-2. You haven’t throw it at Diontae Johnson all night. I mean, are you just trying to get a flag here?”
Herbstreit argued that a couple other routes would have been better choices.
“It’s a low-percentage throw. Roll him out, move him, try to create either a rub or a pick. Give yourself an option. They just threw it up there.”
Steelers Fans Also Question Third-Down Play Call
The Steelers could have avoided the fourth-down disaster if they had gained the first down on third-and-2.
That play was also a Trubisky incompletion. The veteran targeted George Pickens on about a 10-yard route.
TribLive.com’s Tim Benz didn’t understand why the Steelers didn’t try to pick up the first down with a run on third-and-2.
“Why not run it on third and two? You have the 2-min warning to stop the clock before the fourth down if you don’t get it,” tweeted Benz.
TribLive.com’s Amanda Godsey agreed with Benz.
“The decision to throw on third-and-2 was a poor one,” she tweeted.
Steelers fan Dave Dameshek shared that sentiment.
“Run the ball in that spot on 3rd,” Dameshek tweeted. “Sheesh.”
Steelers fan Ahmad disliked the offense not running the ball on third-and-2 as well. But he also brought up the point that the team’s formation on the play was five wide receivers.
If the Steelers weren’t going to run the ball on third-and-2, they could have at least made it appear as though they were going to and had a running back next to Trubisky in the shotgun formation.
Perhaps that would have kept the Patriots defense more honest and helped Pickens or Johnson find more room in the secondary.