Roethlisberger 'ready to go' Sunday; Tomlin takes heat for late-game calls
Keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the AFC wild-card game Sunday with the Steelers protecting an 18-point lead late in the fourth quarter was coach Mike Tomlin's call.
So was the decision to pass on third down, the play in which Roethlisberger injured his right ankle while being brought down by Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Cameron Wake.
Roethlisberger sported a walking boot after the game but said Tuesday he will play against the Kansas City Chiefs in a divisional playoff game Sunday.
Tomlin took responsibility for the play calling at his weekly news conference and absolved offensive coordinator Todd Haley of any wrongdoing.
“I got a little overaggressive there,” Tomlin said. “It goes beyond taking responsibility. I made the call, so don't ask Todd about it on Thursday.”
Thursdays are when the coordinators are available to the media.
The Steelers were leading 30-12 with less than five minutes remaining and faced a third-and-8 at the Miami 46. Running back Le'Veon Bell, who set a Steelers single-game postseason record with 167 rushing yards, already was out of the game. Backup DeAngelo Williams carried on the first two plays of the drive.
Roethlisberger and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown still were on the field.
“We felt Ben's presence would aid us in terms of closing out the game via the run,” Tomlin said. “We have every intention of working to close the game out with DeAngelo (running the ball). His presence on the field was aiding that.
“A lot of the run game was check-oriented based off what we saw from the defense. (Roethlisberger) had the better part of the game to see those checks and put us in the appropriate calls.”
Roethlisberger was chased from the pocket by Wake and attempted to throw in the direction of tight end Jesse James while being dragged to the ground. The ball went directly to Dolphins cornerback Xavier Howard.
Fans criticized Roethlisberger for not getting rid of the ball sooner. Roethlisberger said the Steelers “had a pretty good play called” but a “young receiver” ran the wrong pass route.
Roethlisberger didn't identify the receiver. Rookie Demarcus Ayers and first-year player Eli Rogers were on the field with Brown at the time.
“If he would have run the proper route, the ball would have come out of my hand quicker because he would have been open,” Roethlisberger said on his weekly 93.7 FM radio segment. “But I'm not injured. I'm fine. I'll be ready to go, and we'll move on.”
The play became magnified when Roethlisberger walked into his postgame news conference with a boot on his right foot. He said Tuesday it was for “precautionary” reasons.
After the game, Roethlisberger said his knee “felt funny.” He had an X-ray taken at Heinz Field, then was sent for an MRI later Sunday night.
He said the MRI revealed he aggravated an “older injury.”
“I haven't had the boot on since I got home that night,” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger anticipates sitting out practice Wednesday, something he has done regularly in the last quarter of the season. He expects to practice Thursday and Friday.
“I feel (soreness) today, but I'm walking without the boot, and I'll be ready to go,” he said.
Roethlisberger said he had no issue with still being in the game against the Dolphins when he was injured.
“That's not my call,” he said. “I'll never go to coach and say, ‘Hey, take me out.' I'll stay in the game and fight with my guys until … he's the boss, and he tells me to come out.”