Maybe this was just Ben Roethlisberger taking a page from coach Mike Tomlin and doing his "professional due diligence."
The Steelers quarterback was asked a question after throwing an interception at the goal line to seal Sunday's loss to the Patriots, and he answered it. But in the process, he threw his offensive coordinator under the bus.
After the game, Roethlisberger was asked about the final play, when it looked like he was going to spike the football to stop the clock but instead threw into traffic to Eli Rogers. The pass was tipped by Eric Rowe and picked by Duron Harmon. The game was over, and the Patriots leaped into the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
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What transpired immediately before the final snap was hectic, and Roethlisberger said that his inclination was to spike the football.
"It wasn't a fake spike," said Roethlisberger, according to NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala. "I was yelling 'clock it' because I felt that was the thing to do, to clock it and get yourself one play. And it came from the sideline: 'Don't clock it, don't clock it.' "
"From the sideline" in that instance means from Haley, who could communicate with Roethlisberger through the coach-to-quarterback communication system.
"Well, at that time I'm already -- everyone thinks it's clocked," Roethlisberger said, "so you don't have time to try and get everyone lined up . . . Eli saw and he ran kind of a quick slant in there, and at that time you just gotta try to make a play."
The question is . . . Do you? Do you "gotta try to make a play" if the play is to throw into double or triple-coverage?
Had Roethlisberger thrown the football out of the back of the end zone when he saw the numbers in coverage weren't in his favor, the Steelers may have had the opportunity to kick a game-tying field goal.
Haley may have made the call, but it's a perfectly fine call if Roethlisberger makes a decision that doesn't hand the ball to the opponent. There's no throw-this-or-else mandate from the sidelines on any call. Certainly not for a quarterback of Roethlisberger's stature. And certainly not in that situation.
Now both will have to live with the consequences of a play that will be dissected again and again and may only be forgotten if they can dispose of the Patriots in the playoffs -- a game that, if it happens, would now occur in Foxboro if the seedings hold true.