Pittsburgh Steelers: NFL

PITTSBURGH -- The NFL has quietly closed the book on one of the more controversial chapters of the storied Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens rivalry.

It did so without overstepping its bounds and further punishing the Steelers for Mike Tomlin stepping onto the field and disrupting a Jacoby Jones kickoff return that could have resulted in a touchdown.

The lengthy mea culpa that Tomlin offered -- albeit a little late because he didn’t initially realize the controversy his right foot had ignited -- couldn't have hurt convincing the NFL that a $100,000 fine was punishment enough.

Also, the play in which the Ravens settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown did not change the outcome of the game. Nor did it factor into any postseason tiebreakers.

Above all, it’s hard to believe there was any intent on Tomlin’s part. The man is ultra-competitive but he is not stupid.

No way would he have intentionally interfered during a game that played out on national TV and think he could get away with it. I'd also like to think that sportsmanship would have ever prevented him from even pondering such a thing.

Tomlin's negligence by watching the play unfold on the Jumbotron with his back to it -- and losing track of here he was on the Steelers’ sidelines – resulted in a hit to his checkbook and reputation.

It presumably also led to a stern warning from the NFL to not let something like that happen again or else.

That NFL was right in deciding that the punishment should end there.

Final thoughts on Tomlin's interference

December, 5, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin, via a statement, said he is finished talking about the sideline interference that resulted in a $100,000 fine. Here are a couple of thoughts before moving on to other things, oh say the first of four must-win games the Pittsburgh Steelers play Sunday at Heinz Field:
  • The notion that this incident could be a distraction in the Steelers’ locker room is laughable. Player reaction to the fine was generally muted aside from Ryan Clark taking a few jabs at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, something the veteran safety never hesitates to do. If the Steelers lose to the Dolphins on Sunday it won’t be because Ben Roethlisberger is worried about the Steelers possibly losing a draft pick as part of the Tomlin punishment.
  • Is Tomlin on probation for the rest of the season or does the NFL really believe his interference on Jacoby Jones' kickoff return could affect one of the playoff tiebreakers? Either way it’s still hard to fathom why the punishment is open ended.
  • Do I understand why some people still think there was intent on Tomlin’s part? Yes. Do I think he did it intentionally? No. Tomlin, simply put, is not that stupid. And as tone deaf as he might have been in the days that followed the incident he answered all questions about it with the kind of transparency that is usually absent from his weekly news conferences. If he lied during the 20 minutes of his presser that was devoted to his sideline footwork then the man deserves an Oscar.

NFL makes statement with Tomlin fine

December, 4, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The NFL sent a clear message to Mike Tomlin and the rest of the NFL coaches when it fined him $100,000 for his sideline interference in the Steelers' 22-20 loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving.

It also drew a line regarding the liberties that coaches take regarding the white stripe that separates the sideline from the field of play. By coming down hard on Tomlin a day after he issued a sweeping apology for interfering on a Jacoby Jones kickoff return, the NFL is also trying to rein in the rest of the league coaches by re-establishing a clear boundary between the sideline and the field.

The consequences for Tomlin's controversial footwork could go far beyond his bank account. The league is considering stripping the Steelers of draft choices, and if it adds that to the punishment, it will come at about the worst time possible for the organization.

The Steelers build through the draft, and they are already without their third-round pick in 2014, having traded it to the Browns last year for an extra fourth-round selection that they used on safety Shamarko Thomas.

With a defense that has to get younger and add playmakers and an offensive line that is perpetually in flux, the Steelers need their draft picks in the worst way. Losing more of them would be a significant setback.

The decision by the NFL to mete out punishment while leaving open the possibility of adding to it is a curious one.

It signals that league officials are still trying to determine whether Tomlin meant to get in the way of Jones during a 73-yard kickoff return after a Steelers touchdown had cut the Ravens' lead to 13-7.

Tomlin has adamantly denied that there was any intent on his part for wandering onto the field during a critical juncture of the game. The seventh-year coach hoped to take some of the steam out of the story with his unusual frankness during his weekly news conference as well as owning up to erring in a big way in Baltimore.

Tomlin has been heard. So has the NFL, and the Steelers may still have to pay a greater price for their coach's actions.