NFL should fine Tomlin for crossing the line

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
11:23
AM ET
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers often say "anything goes" when it comes to the most intense rivalry in the NFL. But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin crossed the line, literally this time, and the NFL needs to fine him for it.

Tomlin clearly impeded Jacoby Jones' path on a kickoff return in the third quarter of the Ravens' 22-20 win Thursday night. Jones had an open path to the end zone until the Steelers 40-yard line where Tomlin was in the field of play. Tomlin had his back turned to Jones, but he was standing in the six-foot white sideline border.

Replays showed his right foot was inbounds, which caused Jones to slow up and get caught from behind. Tomlin did hop to his left in an effort to avoid Jones, but he had already impacted the play. Jones slowed and veered to his right, where he was tackled by Cortez Allen.

Tomlin should've been penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, and league officials can't act like it didn't happen like the officials on the field did Thursday night. He violated the NFL rule that prohibits coaches and players from being in the six-foot white border along the sideline.

It's true that coaches are frequently in this area, but Tomlin pushed it too far.

"I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League," Tomlin said. "I was wrong, I accept responsibility for it.”

Tomlin was wrong to be in that spot Thursday night, and the league would be wrong if it gives him just a slap on the wrist.

Whether Tomlin knowingly did this is another debate. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't the only player who believes Tomlin intentionally got in the way of Jones.

“He did it on purpose," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said.

Do the Ravens think Tomlin should be fined by the NFL for this?

“I don’t know, they fine people for doing anything now," Smith said. "He was watching it on the screen, and it was pretty funny to see him smiling about it afterwards."

Many of the Ravens, including coach John Harbaugh, made jokes about this after the game. But they wouldn't be smiling if the Steelers had come back to beat Baltimore.

The Ravens' playoff hopes likely would've ended with a loss, and Tomlin would've been at least partly to blame. This is why the NFL has to send a message that something like this can't happen again.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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