PITTSBURGH — Here’s another adjective Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can call his ill-timed two-step onto the field last Thursday night against Baltimore.
The NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 on Wednesday for interfering with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return in the third quarter of a 22-20 loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night.
The fine is the second-highest ever levied by the league on a head coach, behind only the $500,000 the NFL docked New England’s Bill Belichick in 2007 for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals.
There is also the chance the Steelers have a draft pick taken away “because the conduct affected a play on the field.” Though he was not penalized, the league said the Steelers should have been flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
All that from what Tomlin called an “embarrassing, inexcusable” case of being “mesmerized” while standing in a restricted area that separates the sideline from the playing field and staring at the video board during Jones’ 73-yard return.
Jones had to swerve to avoid running into the coach and was tackled during a return that might have gone for a touchdown if not for the obstruction. Tomlin briefly stepped onto the field before he jumped back.
Tomlin insists the “blunder” was not intentional but has no plans to appeal the ruling.
“I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization,” Tomlin said in a statement Wednesday. “I accept the penalty that I received. I will no longer address this issue as I am preparing for an important game this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.”
Jones didn’t blame Tomlin for his own inability to score on the return but allows it put the coach and the league in a difficult position.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s tough,” Jones said. “I can’t say he did it on purpose because I don’t know what he was thinking. It definitely sends a message across the league. He stepped across the line, which definitely threw it off.”
Tomlin said he was following his normal routine on the play and said standing on the 6-foot wide strip is common practice.
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn’t disagree. Coughlin drew a 15-yard flag during the preseason for stepping onto the field during a field goal attempt.
“You find yourself sometimes running down the sideline on the white, but nevertheless, you’re not even supposed to be even on the white because the officials have to have access there,” Coughlin said. “That is a most difficult thing to absorb.”
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