With the score tied 3-3 in Sunday's Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry game, late in the second quarter the Steelers attempted a fake field goal. The fake turned out to be unsuccessful. So, the Browns took over on downs and the first half ended in a tie.
The fake field goal was certainly a bold play call, especially in a close, low-scoring game where points were hard to come by. Even though the risky play call it didn't work, that's still probably a high percentage play, given that no one on the defense expects the placekicker to throw a pass on fourth down.
However, what happened afterward was utterly mind-boggling for an NFL franchise. It should scare the living daylights out of any Pittsburgh Steelers fan or bettor for the monumentally gross ineptitude shown in what transpired over in the second half.
Turns out, the Steelers didn't have a backup placekicker. There was no one capable of kicking extra points or field goals. Nope, not even the punter. Not the backup QB. Not a lineman. Not a defensive back. Not a wide receiver. Nada.
With Chris Boswell (the Steelers kicker) on the sidelines and his brain temporarily scrambled into an omelette following a hard hit and concussion, Pittsburgh didn't have a single player on the bench capable of making what should have been a simple kick.
Announcers were baffled. How was it possible that an NFL team didn't (doesn't) have a backup for one of the most important skill positions on the roster? The punter, who would normally serve in that role, had never attempted a field goal before – not even in college. Question: So, you mean to tell me the Steelers run hundreds of hours of practices during preseason and in the season and no one thought – hey, what happens if Boswell gets injured? You think it might be a good idea to be prepared, just in case? What would have happened if Pittsburgh was down by 3 points late and needed to make a 30-yarder? You mean, NOBODY on that team had ever tried a kick before, or practiced for the possibility?
Excuse me while I try and figure out why someone isn't losing his job over this.
The Steelers scored a touchdown later in the game. Since they didn't have a kicker, they ended up trying a 2-point conversion from the 12-yard line after a penalty. Huh? Seriously? The Steelers figured the chances of converting one play from the 12-yard line was better than making an extra point? I could kick an extra point (and I have before, even in Pittsburgh wearing dress shoes -- true story).
I cannot believe from a 45-player roster there wasn't one player capable of kicking an extra point. Or that the punter didn't practice occasionally for the prospect of making a kick if the starting kicker was injured. This is one of the most negligent instances of coaching I've ever witnessed. It calls entirely on head coach Mike Tomlin.
Of course, this will all be forgotten since the Steelers ended up winning the game 15-10. They failed on two 2-point conversion attempts. If Cleveland had played a halfway decent game offensively, the Pittsburgh void at kicker would have cost them the game.
I'm still stunned, shocked, and baffled that an NFL team can be so ill-prepared as to not have a substitute kicker. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to run a fake field goal, after all.