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Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: Mike Tomlin's explanations confuse more than they clarify

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, 10:57 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, center, talks with inside linebacker Vince Williams (98) and cornerback Mike Hilton (28) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, center, talks with inside linebacker Vince Williams (98) and cornerback Mike Hilton (28) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

I walked into Mike Tomlin’s news conference Tuesday seeking clarity.

For the most part, though, I walked out confused … over whether I should still be confused.

Quick! Someone get me a Le’Veon Bell chin scratch emoji.

It turns out I was right about one thing. The team really did think that it could get away with stashing a less-than-100-percent Ben Roethlisberger on the bench with an uncomfortable but manageable rib injury.

Keep in mind, the Steelers were up only 14-10 in the fourth quarter. And they had failed to produce any points with Josh Dobbs at quarterback.

Tomlin confirmed that a decision was made to keep Roethlisberger on the sidelines unless it was “absolutely necessary” to put him back in the game.

“We felt the best, the most prudent thing to do would be to only to make Ben available in (an) emergency-like situation,” Tomlin said.

Because of X-rays that were inconclusive — more on that later — Tomlin said the judgment was made to “only reinsert him into the game if we felt it was necessary. As the game unfolded, it became necessary.”

That confirmed what I had speculated. Here’s where I get hazy, though.

Why Tomlin, Roethlisberger and general manager Kevin Colbert, who was also allegedly in on the decision-making process, failed to see a scant four-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Raiders as anything less than an emergency is beyond my comprehension.

The defense was unlikely to hold that lead, as its rotten fourth-quarter numbers indicate . And the AFC North lead is hanging by a thread.

I’m not sure how that doesn’t qualify as an “emergency-like situation.”

Complicating that school of thought, Tomlin said the decision to reinsert Roethlisberger had been made before Oakland’s scoring drive that resulted in their 17-14 lead, “regardless of what transpired” on that drive.

Yet 7 seconds earlier, Tomlin said, “If we felt like we needed Ben to win the game, we were going to do it.”

If the Steelers stop the Raiders on that fourth-and-1, then you are already winning the game, right? However, the decision was made before that Raiders drive that Roethlisberger would return.

Seems inconsistent.

“Whether or not we were ahead or behind had nothing to do with whether or not we inserted him in the game,” Tomlin attempted to clarify. “It doesn’t necessarily mean we had to be behind to reinsert him. It just meant, were we fluidly moving the ball to be in a position to win.”

OK, so if — in Tomlin’s words — “rhythm and flow” were dictating the decision more than score, then their acknowledgment of an emergency-like situation should’ve occurred in that “drive or so earlier” that Tomlin referenced in his postgame news conference.

Because Dobbs’ sequences went like this: Punt. Downs. Interception. Punt.

I’m also confused about the whole X-ray thing.

Roethlisberger and Tomlin said the Steelers had trouble finding the X-ray room, couldn’t locate the technician and received unclear results from the antiquated unit.

None of this was discussed in-depth postgame. That’s odd for a coach such as Tomlin who has used his postgame pressers to complain about faulty radio equipment in New England, slow replays in road stadiums , and the referees after the Atlanta win .

Yet no mention of improper X-ray equipment for the star quarterback. Odd, huh?

Oh, I was also hoping to gain some clarity as to how Tomlin was planning to beat the Patriots on Sunday. I didn’t get any on that front either. But I’ve been confused about that since 2011.

Apparently, so have the Steelers.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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