Mike Tomlin finds footing on sideline issue

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin news conferences are usually an exercise in monotony, from his excessive praise of the upcoming opponent to the Steelers coach’s well-honed art of talking but not saying much in regard to his own team.

Tomlin’s news conference less than a week after his right foot kick-started a controversy that created a national buzz -- and inspired Photoshopped pictures that have elicited chuckles even from the seventh-year coach -- took on a surreal feel to it.

There was the normally guarded Tomlin opening to reporters and employing the kind of transparency that may or may not help him and the Steelers with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

There was also a rather stunning admission of how clueless Tomlin had initially been about the fallout caused by his nationally televised sideline interference. Tomlin can exude a smartest guy in the room hubris, yet it took his two young sons to impress upon him over the weekend that the story he created wouldn’t just go away.

Since finding his footing on the issue that has led to questions of integrity about a coach who is on the NFL’s competition committee, Tomlin has made all the right moves.

He has reached out to the NFL and assumed ownership of what he called an “inexcusable blunder,” among other things, during his weekly news conference. Tomlin made the point that his interference with Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return was completely accidental without laying it on too thick.

His wide-ranging mea culpa and willingness to lambaste himself for his sideline misstep makes it easier for the NFL to employ leniency when it punishes Tomlin without him asking the league to do just that.

He said he hoped the league wouldn’t punish the Steelers for his mistake, something that could cost the organization a draft pick.

“But I also understand in terms of being the head coach of this organization that I represent us and that there are potential consequences that come with that,” Tomlin said.

That was the exact thing Tomlin needed to say, the right tone he needed to strike.

And that means he may be the only one who pays for his controversial footwork.