Steelers unlikely to lose draft pick after Mike Tomlin sideline incident

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Barring an unlikely scenario involving little-used playoff tiebreakers, it appears the Steelers will hold on to their 2014 NFL Draft picks after Mike Tomlin's Thanksgiving sideline stunt.

The NFL threatened to take away NFL Draft picks from the Pittsburgh Steelers due to Mike Tomlin's sideline obstruction of Jacoby Jones' path to the end zone during a kickoff return on Thanksgiving. The leagues is unlikely to act on its threat, however, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

An NFL source told the Post-Gazette that the Steelers would only lose draft picks if the play in question ultimately harms the Baltimore Ravens' playoff standing. The Ravens won the game, but they settled for three points instead seven because of Tomlin. The four-point swing could factor into the tiebreaker for the AFC North crown or a wild card spot if season point differential is needed to determine a postseason spot between two otherwise equal teams.

Point differential is WAAAAAAY down the list of NFL wild card tiebreakers, however, likely making the whole thing moot. Emphasis ours:

If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.

  1. If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
  2. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps.

Two Clubs

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Three or More Clubs

(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)

  1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

Let's break this down: unless the Ravens find themselves with the same record as another AFC team that they haven't played, that has the exact same in-conference record, the exact same record against common opponents, victories over teams with the exact same combined winning percentage and a schedule against teams with the exact same combined winning percentage, then the play will make no difference in their playoff standing.

So barring an incredibly unlikely scenario, the Steelers' 2014 NFL Draft picks appear to be safe, and Mike Tomlin can breathe a sigh of relief as soon as he has finished writing a check for his $100,000 fine.

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