Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been fined $100,000 by the NFL for interfering with a play in progress during his team's game against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night, according to Ian Rapoport. The league will also consider taking away or downgrading a draft pick once the 2014 draft order is finalized.
During the third quarter of the Thanksgiving day game, Tomlin stepped into the path of Ravens return man Jacoby Jones as Jones raced down the sideline in front of the Steelers' bench. Jones was forced to change direction and was immediately caught from behind. Though the Ravens went on to win, 22-20, the play instantly became the weekend's biggest story, and the league launched an investigation into the scandal.
While Tomlin stated the interference was an accident, video surfaced earlier this week that showed the coach sidestepping to the edge of the field in what appeared to be an intentional act. The league determined that Tomlin violated Rule 13, Section 1, Article 4 of the NFL Rule Book, which prohibits a coach from stepping into the white sideline border that surrounds the playing field.
Tomlin released an apologetic statement shortly after the ruling was announced on Wednesday.
As I stated yesterday, I take full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. 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.
The punishment loosely follows the precedent set by a similar 2010 sideline incident, in which New York Jets assistant Sal Alosi intentionally tripped a Miami Dolphins player. Alosi was suspended for the remainder of the season, and the team was fined $100,000.
SB Nation's Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, considers the penalty appropriate.
The punishment fits the crime, especially considering Tomlin is on the NFL competition committee. He knew the rule, and whether he intended to get in Jones' way or not, he shouldn't have been past that white line on the sideline.
Ravens fans will likely applaud the NFL's ruling.
News on whether or not Pittsburgh will forfeit draft selections will wait until the 2014 draft order is finalized after the Super Bowl. If so, it will not be the first time the NFL has docked a franchise draft picks for major rules infractions. In 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took a first-round pick away from the New England Patriots in the wake of Spygate, the scandal in which the Patriots were caught videotaping hand signals from opposing coaches. Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for the incident, the largest fine imposed on a coach in the league's history.
Goodell also docked a pair of second-round picks from the New Orleans Saints after it was discovered the team had violated NFL rules by placing bounties on opposing players. A slew of suspensions were doled out to players and coaches alike, including an unprecedented full-year ban on head coach Sean Payton.
It's the classic "it could have been much worse, so mind your Ps and Qs, buster," because merely the threat of reducing a pick to a media so obsessed with its amateur draft is tantamount to actually taking the pick away.
A strategic move by an organization that manipulates the media better than the presidency. But ultimately, a hollow threat that's based more in sending a message to 31 other head coaches. A message even stronger than $100,000 cash.
The removal of the most powerful narcotic in sports; draft picks.