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Steelers

Steelers had several options after Sunday's video review

Joe Rutter
| Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, 2:48 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) catches a pass then twists to stretch the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against the New England Patriots with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. Upon video review, the touchdown call was reversed and the pass was ruled incomplete. The Patriots held on to win 27-24. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) catches a pass then twists to stretch the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against the New England Patriots with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. Upon video review, the touchdown call was reversed and the pass was ruled incomplete. The Patriots held on to win 27-24. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Steelers tight end Jesse James looks at the big screen in disbelief after the Patriots' Duron Harmon grabs an interception to end the game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Jesse James looks at the big screen in disbelief after the Patriots' Duron Harmon grabs an interception to end the game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, at Heinz Field.
The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski pulls in a two-point conversion against the Steelers in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski pulls in a two-point conversion against the Steelers in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.

Touchdown or incompletion weren't the only options presented to the Steelers while they waited out a nearly three-minute video review Sunday night.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that officials provided a scenario in which the pass to tight end Jesse James with 28 seconds left against the New England Patriots was ruled a completion with the ball placed at the 1-yard line.

That added to the chaos in the waning moments of the 27-24 loss that kept the Steelers from clinching a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. James' apparent 10-yard touchdown was overturned by replay official Al Riveron, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hurriedly threw an interception in the end zone two plays later.

“What did happen when they came out of review was probably the least of my scenarios, from my expectations,” Tomlin said at his weekly news conference.

Tomlin said the third option, in which James was ruled down before reaching the end zone, was “probably the most significant discussion” during the lengthy lag time between plays.

“If his knee was down in the field of play, there would be a 10-second runoff, they'd spot the ball, wind the clock, and we'd be faced with a running clock in that circumstance,” Tomlin said, relaying his discussion with the crew headed by referee Tony Corrente.

Tomlin dismissed the criticism that the Steelers weren't prepared to run more than one play.

“There were multiple potential circumstances depending on what transpired when they came out of the review,” he said.

Roethlisberger, however, said on his weekly 93.7 FM radio segment that only one play was discussed. It turned out to be a short pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey that gained 3 yards. The clock kept running when Heyward-Bey couldn't get out of bounds.

“There is hindsight on a lot of situations,” Roethlisberger said. “I wish we would have called two plays and had two ready to go.”

Roethlisberger was prepared to spike the ball, stopping the clock. And he said that is the call he made to his offensive teammates after the Heyward-Bey catch.

Amid the confusion, Tomlin thought it was worth running a play rather than stop the clock to set up a game-tying field goal on fourth down.

“I find comfort in the fact that (Roethlisberger) is my quarterback. If everyone on the field is uncomfortable, then that's advantage Pittsburgh Steelers,” Tomlin said.

Last year against the Dallas Cowboys, Roethlisberger perfectly executed a fake-spike play for a 15-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 42 seconds to go.

“We chose to try to win the game in regulation,” Tomlin said. “There were extra seconds there I wanted to take advantage of, and that's why I instructed him not to spike the ball. If given an opportunity to do it again, I'd do it again.”

Roethlisberger took the snap with 9 seconds left, faked a spike and pump-faked before throwing to Eli Rogers on a slant route amid multiple defenders. The ball deflected to Patriots safety Duron Harmon for the interception.

Tomlin said there was latitude for Roethlisberger to spike the ball, which the quarterback said was his “gut instinct.”

“Certainly,” Tomlin said. “There is no script for those moments. … We call plays all the time that he may change at the line of scrimmage.”

Had the Steelers gotten to fourth down, Tomlin was asked whether he would have gone for the win.

“I probably would have gone into overtime,” he said. “But there is a chance certainly.”

Roethlisberger would have agreed with the call had Tomlin decided to pass up the tying field goal.

“I would have loved it,” he said. “I think Coach Tomlin is crazy enough to go for it and win it.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review sports writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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