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Yesterday's divisional-round games showcased that the Steelers need to stop living in their fears

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The Chiefs-Browns game yesterday made Mike Tomlin's decision to not go for it on fourth-and-1 on their own 46-yard line when down 35-23 early in the fourth quarter last week look even worse.

Patrick Mahomes was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the third quarter and the Chiefs had to rely on 35-year-old backup quarterback Chad Henne to carry them to victory. The Chiefs led 22-17 and were facing third-and-14 with two minutes remaining in the game. On the play, Henne miraculously got outside of the pocket and scrambled for 13 yards, setting up a fourth-and-inches at their own 48-yard line.

The situation was very similar to the one the Steelers faced against the Browns in the wild-card game, except for the fact that the Chiefs had a five-point lead with 1:14 left in the game and the Steelers trailed by 12 points with 15:00 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Andy Reid showed a lot of guts and went for the win with his backup quarterback. Henne rolled out to the right and completed an easy quick out to Tyreek Hill for five yards and the first down to send the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game for the third year in a row.

Tom Reed of DKPittsburghSports spoke with Reid recently and asked him about being aggressive on fourth down.

The Browns were 3 for 3 on fourth down and the Chiefs were 2 for 2 on fourth down in the game. All five of the conversions game in fourth-and-short situations as well.

In yesterday's divisional-round games, three of the four signal callers ran quarterback sneaks and were successful. Ben Roethlisberger didn't run a single quarterback sneak this season and the Steelers were horrendous in third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations in 2020.

Baker Mayfield converted on two quarterback sneaks (one on third-and-1 and the other on fourth-and-1), 42-year-old quarterback Drew Brees, who suffered 11 cracked ribs and a collapsed lung earlier this year, also ran two quarterbacks sneaks and converted (both on third-and-1). Tom Brady, 43, who's notorious for being successful at running quarterback sneaks, converted one on fourth-and-1 from the Buccaneers' own 34-yard line in the first quarter, and scored a touchdown on second-and-goal to give the Buccaneers a 30-20 lead over the Saints that they wouldn't surrender with 4:57 left in the game.

The counterpoint to running the ball with your franchise quarterback would be the risk of injury, as Mahomes on an option play in the third quarter suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the game.

Option plays are more of a risk for injury to the quarterback than running sneaks, however. I understand the Steelers thought process of not putting Roethlisberger in harm's way, but with his size, he should have no issue plunging forward and getting a yard for a first down.

Watching yesterday's divisional-round games just showed how more advanced other teams are than the Steelers when it comes to creativity on offense and being aggressive, which explains why Randy Fichtner didn't have his contract renewed. But at the same time, Tomlin needs to stop living in his fears and be more aggressive in fourth-and-short situations and not be afraid to run a quarterback sneak with Roethlisberger every once in a while.


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