Mike Tomlin: NFL must assess refs

Updated: December 31, 2013, 11:02 AM ET
By Scott Brown | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- A missed call that may have kept the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs didn't leave coach Mike Tomlin bemoaning what could have been.

But Tomlin said the NFL needs to take a hard look at officiating during the offseason and consider measures to improve it, including making referees full-time employees of the league.

Tomlin is a member of the NFL competition committee, which considers and proposes rules changes or new rules every year to improve the quality of play and make the game safer.

Mike Tomlin Obviously, there's a lot of work [to do] from an officiating standpoint. I think it's been well-documented in the last several weeks, not only in stadiums we've played in, but others.

-- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

"Obviously, there's a lot of work [to do] from an officiating standpoint," Tomlin said Monday during his season-ending news conference. "I think it's been well-documented in the last several weeks, not only in stadiums we've played in, but others [too].

"I always want to be someone that's part of the solution as opposed to someone that's complaining and moaning about the problem. I intend to roll my sleeves up and offer any insight I can in making [the league] the very best it can be moving forward."

Tomlin was asked whether he thought referees should be full-time employees.

"I think that and other things are up for discussion," Tomlin said.

The Steelers would have secured the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs had Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop made a 41-yard field goal at the end of regulation Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

Succop missed the kick by mere inches, but the Chargers should have been penalized for having seven players on one side of the snapper, a 5-yard penalty that would have given Succop a second chance, this time from 36 yards. The Chargers kicked a field goal in overtime to win 27-24 and claim the last remaining spot in the AFC playoffs.

The league released a statement Monday morning acknowledging the missed call -- teams are not allowed to have more than six players on one side of the snapper during field goal attempts -- and it has also contacted Tomlin about it.

"Those guys do a great job of communicating during difficult times, and I appreciate that," Tomlin said. "But it doesn't change what transpired."

Tomlin had been watching the Chiefs-Chargers game and said he noticed that San Diego was in an illegal formation even before Succop attempted the 41-yard field goal.

When asked if he yelled at the TV before the snap, Tomlin said, "I'll leave that between myself, my sons and our basement."

Tomlin indicated that he will be plenty vocal during the competition committee meetings that take place during the offseason. But he also made it clear that the Steelers have only themselves to blame for missing the playoffs following an 8-8 season.

"I'm not looking to assess blame on anybody else about our current position other than ourselves," Tomlin said.

The Steelers had their first 0-4 start since 1968, and Tomlin said he was pleased with how the players overcame adversity this season.

"I think the overwhelming feeling as I sit here right now is just a great deal of pride in the group, and their willingness to stick together and their ability to maintain focus and improve over the course of the season," he said.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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