Mike Tomlin slept through wild Chargers-Raiders ending with Steelers' playoff berth at stake

While the NFL world was glued to its collective TVs during perhaps the wildest regular-season finale in league history on Sunday, the viewer with the most at stake missed the drama.

Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday that he didn't see Daniel Carlson's game-winning field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers that clinched a playoff berth for the Las Vegas Raiders — and his Pittsburgh Steelers. He was asleep.

"I missed the end of it. I dozed off," the Steelers head coach told reporters on Monday.


"I knew I had a workday waiting on me, or I assumed I had a workday, waiting on me," Tomlin said.

Only in the maniacally obsessive NFL, where wealthy head coaches sleep on cots in offices if they believe it gives their team an edge. Rather than watch the game that determined if he actually had a game to prepare for, Tomlin fell asleep anticipating an early morning of work.

Dec 5, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin looks on from the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during the third quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Tomlin couldn't quite make it to the end of Sunday's pivotal game. (Charles LeClaire-Reuters)

He explained that a second-half Raiders lead gave him the peace of mind to do so.

"I think at one point, [the Raiders were] up by 15, and that number made you somewhat comfortable," Tomlin continued.

Tomlin missed a wild one — and thinks he's better off for it

The Raiders indeed took a 29-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter. So if Tomlin's account is accurate, that means he actually stayed up through 3 1/2 quarters of the Sunday night game before he decided he'd seen enough. Or his eyelids did, at least.

In case you missed it, a wild, unlikely set of outcomes during the day on Sunday ensured that the Steelers clinched a playoff berth — as long as the Chargers-Raiders game didn't end in the even less likely event of a tie. The 2021 season produced a grand total of one tie game.

Yet, here we were late Sunday, and the Chargers had rallied to score two late touchdowns to send the game into overtime. With 9:58 of the 10-minute overtime clock expired, the game was again tied — an outcome that if made final would have sent both game participants into the playoffs and knocked the Steelers out.

But instead of taking a knee, the Raiders decided that the long-shot downside of a blocked field goal leading to a Chargers score was worth risking in the name of defeating their AFC West rivals. Carlson's 47-yard kick was, in fact, not blocked. Instead, it sailed through the uprights to sink the Chargers' playoff hopes while securing a postseason bid for both the Raiders and the Steelers. An all-day narrative and outcome more dramatic couldn't have been written.

And after participating in/watching most of it play out, Tomlin slept through the climax. And he's OK with that.

"I'm probably better off not having watched it."