Fourth down, ball on the half-yard line, Steelers trailing 20-17.
Mike Tomlin didn’t have to go for it.
He could have called for the field goal and taken his chances in overtime. But he didn’t. He put the ball in the hands of Le’Veon Bell and asked him to get a couple of inches for the win.
Bell delivered. Wildcat touchdown run. Steelers win, 24-20.
“This is what NFL coaching is about,” The NFL Today analyst Tony Gonzalez said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “ Sooner or later, you’re going to be faced with a decision that you’re going to be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think he made the right call. I think you put the ball in the hands of your best player and you roll the dice – because no matter what happens, you’re going to get ridiculed. And let’s say he went for it, let’s say he didn’t make it. Then all the talking heads, myself included, we’re all going to be sitting there questioning, ‘Well, I think you made the wrong decision. I think you get the points and you play it safe.’ But he makes the call and it’s gutsy and now (it’s), ‘Hey, that’s the right call.’ But that’s the life of the NFL coach. That comes with the territory. It worked out well for Coach Tomlin. I’m happy it did. I believe it was the right call.”
While Bell got the touchdown, Michael Vick was flawless on the final drive, orchestrating a 12-play, 80-yard march in just under three minutes.
Vick had a 24-yard rush – his first carry of the night – on 3rd-and-6 to get Pittsburgh in the red zone. Then he found Heath Miller near the goal line for a 16-yard gain that set up Bell’s winning run.
Vick finished 13-of-26 for 203 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Those are so-so numbers overall, but Vick stepped up when it mattered most.
“If you look at what he’s done over the last 14, 15 games – if you look at his record and his throwing percentage, his touchdown percentage, his quarterback efficiency – it’s not high at all,” Gonzalez said. “In fact, it’s ranked right down there at the bottom of the barrel (compared) to other quarterbacks. So I don’t know. Maybe we have over-expectations for Michael Vick, but his game is a game of athleticism. I think you saw that on that final drive, and maybe Todd Haley took the handcuffs off or whatever it may be. But he looked like an older style of himself where he’s out there making plays with his legs and he’s throwing that ball down the field and he looks way more comfortable.”
Thanks to Vick, the Steelers are now 3-2 instead of 2-3. The importance of that cannot be overstated, especially with a home game against Arizona looming.
“Give him credit,” Gonzalez said of Vick. “He’s one of the most exciting players to ever play in the league – a very good quarterback. I’m happy for him. I’m happy that he was able to go out there, especially after last week the way he lost. He said it was the worst loss of his career. So for him to go out there and get some redemption and have a good drive like that when he wasn’t playing that well, I’m happy for him. You always got to look back and see what they’ve done because it’s always about a body of work, as far as I’m concerned. You just look at what he’s been doing over his last 14, 15 starts and it’s not that impressive. But he came up big for his team last night.”