PITTSBURGH -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says if he had it to do all over again, he'd do it all over again.
Yes, he would again call for the two debatable 2-point conversion tries. The decision to run the ball on Pittsburgh's failed final drive, which led to Jacksonville's winning field goal and the Jaguars' 31-29 AFC playoff victory on Saturday.
Yes, that Ben Roethlisberger rollout on third-and-6 from the Pittsburgh 26 with 2:56 to play and the Steelers up 29-28 would be repeated -- even though a successful short pass play would have given them the opportunity to run out the clock.
Roethlisberger was stopped for only a 1-yard gain on a quarterback sweep to his left, a play that the Steelers rarely use but which still didn't fool Jaguars safety Sammy Knight. Roethlisberger threw for 337 yards and two scores and the Steelers ran for only 43 yards on 26 carries, yet they called three successive run plays on that final drive.
OK, Tomlin may be second-guessing that play-calling a little.
"Hindsight is 20-15 sometimes," Tomlin said at his end-of-season news conference Thursday. "If you had it to do over, yes, you would love to do that (throw the ball) because the result of the play was not the result we were looking for."
Tomlin's first season as an NFL head coach began well with records of 4-1 and 7-2 but ended with four losses in five games, including the Steelers' first early round home playoff loss in 15 years.
That's why Tomlin took a few extra days before talking to reporters for one last time this season. "It was an emotional game," he said. "It was a gut-wrenching defeat, but every January defeat I have experienced has been the same."
Tomlin twice gambled by going for the 2-point conversion, rather than kicking the extra point, after the Steelers scored in the fourth quarter to cut it to 28-23 and again when they went ahead 29-28.
The first time, Tomlin stayed with the 2-point conversion even after a holding call on center Sean Mahan pushed the Steelers back to the 12-yard line. On another debatable quarterback keeper, Roethlisberger was stopped at the 3.
"Yes, I'd do it again," Tomlin said. "I throw caution to the wind. I play to win."
Following their go-ahead touchdown 4 minutes later, the Steelers were trying to go up by three points so a field goal wouldn't beat them -- which, of course, is exactly what happened when Josh Scobee kicked a 25-yarder with 37 seconds to play.
"We go up by one, there is no need of going up by two," Tomlin said.
On other issues, Tomlin said he:
»Plans to retain all of his assistant coaches, although it is common for a first-year coach to reassess his staff and make changes.
"Do we need to get better? Do we need to coach better in some areas, all areas? Absolutely," he said.
»Was concerned -- and rightly so, as it proved -- about his special teams even before the start of training camp.
As he watched film after being hired nearly a year ago, Tomlin said he realized losing special teams players such as Sean Morey, Mike Logan and Chidi Iwuoma would be a major setback. Also, linebacker James Harrison became a starter and didn't play as much on special teams.
"I wasn't interested in throwing up a red flag and saying, `Hey, I am worried about special teams,' but obviously I was," Tomlin said. "A special teams unit is comprised of four or five core guys. ... It would be the equivalent of losing seven, eight, nine starters on an offensive or defensive unit."
Kick coverage must improve next season, he said, but there "are not enough dynamic playmakers that you can build a core unit around."
»Thinks the Steelers currently are "a good team. That's what 10-6 teams are, what division champions are. We've got to be great."
»Is convinced the offensive and defensive lines most need an infusion of younger players.
"The protection of our quarterback has to improve," Tomlin said, referring to the 47 sacks of Roethlisberger.
»Hasn't written off losing All-Pro guard Alan Faneca, who can become a free agent, but "maybe the door is closing."
»Isn't confident that the Steelers will be big players in free agency and believes most of their new players will arrive in the draft.
"When you have quality, you have to pay for that," he said.
»Said his first season as a head coach didn't go "as well as I would have liked."
"One of the things that has bugged me since Saturday night are people with great intentions saying,
Great start' andgreat year,'" he said. "I appreciate that, but I am not wired like that. Not that I am a negative guy, a melancholy guy. ... (But) there is something we are chasing here and we never will cease that chase."
»Wouldn't disclose, for now, whether the Steelers will eventually switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. He also wouldn't say if he favors yanking up Heinz Field's often-mushy grass and putting down artificial turf.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press