#NFL’s Mike Tomlin: Was He Wrong about Read-Option?

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach during his tenure there since 2007. I really can’t believe he’s been a coach for 5 years now and has won 2 Super Bowls with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback.

mike tomlin

But, one of the most pointed remarks he made last year was how the read-option pattern in the NFL was a fad. As news network NESN reported, Mike Tomlin said:

“I think the read-option is the flavor of the month…We’ll see whether it’s the flavor of the year…

A few years ago, people were talking wildly about the Wildcat. It’s less of a discussion now…I think there are coaches in rooms preparing themselves to defend it, there are coaches in rooms also preparing to run it. I think it’s going to sort out on the grass.”

As the article said, Tomlin’s perception was skewed because his Steelers only faced one read-option team in the Washington Redskins in the 2012-2013 season. His defense held Robert Griffin III to 50% completion percentage, 1 touchdown and only 8 yards rushing in a 27-12 beatdown.

But, how has his Steelers fared this season against the read-option, the so-called “flavor of the month”?

He’s only faced 2 AFC teams that run variations or several play packages of the read option: The New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. I would have counted the Buffalo Bills if their starting quarterback, EJ Manuel, played against them. Thad Lewis, Kevin Kolb (out for the year with a concussion) and Jeff Tuel aren’t exactly read-option guys like Manuel can be.

geno smith sacked

The Steelers beat the Jets 19-6 and lost a close battle to the Raiders 21-18. Let’s break it down:

Against the Jets, the Steelers held the Jets offense to only 267 yards total and 2 turnovers (both were interceptions thrown by rookie QB Geno Smith). Here were Geno’s passing numbers (per Steelers.com):

Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
Geno Smith 19/34 201 0 2

A key component of the read-option is the running game, so what were the Jets’ stats that day?

Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
Bilal Powell 9 30 0 10
Mike Goodson 4 29 0 18
Chris Ivory 4 16 0 6
Geno Smith 3 8 0 9

I’m sorry, but that is not good running at all. I’ll have to say the Jets didn’t run well and the Steelers stopped them in their tracks. None of those names, except for Chris Ivory, really scare any NFL defense.

pryor vs steelersTo the Raiders, who beat the Steelers 21-18:

Raiders Stats

Total Net Yards 279
Penalties Yards 6-39
Time of Possession 30:01
Total Turnovers 3

Ok, not bad, but similar numbers to those the Jets posted against the Steelers. Now what about the passing game by Terrelle Pryor, a dual-threat quarterback (per Steelers.com)?

Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
Terrelle Pryor 10/19 88 0 2

Ok, that’s pedestrian at best. But how did they win? Let’s see:

Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
Terrelle Pryor 9 106 1 93
Darren McFadden 24 73 2 19
Marcel Reece 3 10 0 6
Rashad Jennings 2 8 0 5

Holy crap! Did we forget the Pryor had a 93-yard TD scamper against the vaunted Steelers run defense? Those numbers are solid for a running back for sure, but a read-option quarterback? That is phenomenal. That, no doubt, helped open up the running game for RB Darren McFadden, who had 2 rushing TD’s on the day on 24 carries, 73 yards total.

Check out this link to see the GIF/video of Pryor’s TD run HERE.

But, it looks like Tomlin is 2-1 against read-option teams in his career so far. But, he has not faced Russell Wilson (who is a great passer) or Colin Kaepernick because both play in the NFC. Tomlin faces the likes of pocket passers Andy Dalton of Cincinnati, Joe Flacco of Baltimore and whoever they have in Cleveland.

Still, Pryor’s breakout game versus Tomlin’s Steelers means that Tomlin may have to eat his words, especially if he faces the likes of Pryor, Griffin, Kaepernick and Wilson anytime soon.

What do you think, is the read-option the “flavor of the month” or is it here to stay?

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About Spencer Irvine

Fun loving, D.C. area sports fan, which means I'm frustrated and still can't get a grip on what a win truly means (or a championship for that matter).

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