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Following Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s unpenalized sideline interference of Jacoby Jones during the Ravens’ 22-20 win on Thursday night, the NFL appears to be on the verge of cracking down on the head coach and the organization.
Multiple outlets are reporting that Tomlin and the Steelers are facing heavy fines and the league could even go as far as stripping the organization of a 2014 late-round draft pick because of the coach’s questionable sideline footwork during Jones’ kickoff return in the third quarter. Jones was forced to slightly change direction while running down the sideline to avoid Tomlin, a move that likely aided Cortez Allen in running down the Pro Bowl return specialist from behind.
The 73-yard kickoff return set up the Ravens offense at the Pittsburgh 27, but Baltimore eventually settled for a field goal.
Recently appointed to the league’s prestigious competition committee, Tomlin clearly ventured far too close to the field during the long kickoff return, but the difficulty in determining whether it was intentional would make the forfeiture of a draft pick seem unlikely as the league is expected to rule on the matter as early as Monday. Numerous Ravens players were critical of the Steelers coach’s behavior, and a video shot of Tomlin smiling on the stadium video board didn’t exactly help his case with any observers.
Tomlin said after the game that he lost awareness of his body positioning as he watched the long kick return on the M&T Bank Stadium video board but that any interference with the play wasn’t intentional.
“It was wrong and I take responsibility for it,” Tomlin said.
The league could look to the 2010 incident of Jets assistant Sal Alosi interfering with a Miami Dolphins player on the sideline for precedent as New York was fined $100,000 for his actions. Alosi was fined $25,000 by the Jets and suspended for the remainder of that season before leaving the organization. However, this type of action taken by a head coach is a far more serious matter as the league wants to send a message that questionable sideline decorum — intentional or not — will not be tolerated.
If the Ravens had lost the game, the league would have had an even bigger problem on its hands considering how unhappy Baltimore was about Tomlin’s behavior even in victory.