Thursday night’s primetime matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens held serious implications for the playoff prospects of both AFC North teams. However, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may have taken his quest to reach the postseason a bit too far.
Tomlin is currently under fire for his role in an incident that occurred during the second quarter of the Ravens’ 22-20 victory over the Steelers. The Steelers coach appeared to purposely block Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones’ path during a kick return, costing Baltimore a key touchdown.
The Ravens were nursing a 13-7 lead when kick returner Jacoby Jones caught the ball and broke free of the Steelers’ kick coverage. Jones appeared to have a clear path to the end zone, but was forced to change direction to avoid Tomlin, who had wandered out onto the field near the 40-yard line.
The slight delay allowed Steelers defender Cortez Allen to tackle Jones, preventing a touchdown and some key insurance points for the Ravens. Ravens fans didn’t take kindly to Tomlin’s alleged interference, but the Steelers coach insisted after the game that he was watching the kick return on the stadium’s Jumbotron and hadn’t noticed that he’d blocked Jones’ path.
"I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron; it provides a better perspective for me,” Tomlin told reporters after the game, via NFL.com. “Obviously, I lost my placement as he broke free, and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play."
When asked if he was aware of the NFL's rule against coaches walking out onto the field, Tomlin was contrite in his response. "Tell me something I don't know. I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong, I accept responsibility for it," he said.
After the game, James was diplomatic when asked if he believed that Tomlin had purposely gotten in his way. "It broke my stride a little bit," Jones said. “I still shouldn’t have gotten caught.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was less forgiving. “Mike Tomlin stopped us one time, I think,” he told reporters.
The game’s officials did not penalize Tomlin for his actions on the play; however, if they had decided that Tomlin had intentionally interfered with Jones, the Ravens would likely have been awarded an automatic touchdown, USA Today reports. Furthermore, the Steelers would have been assessed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Tomlin may not have been penalized at the time, but he’ll still likely face discipline from the NFL. League officials will review the play during the week, and Tomlin “should be penalized” for stepping onto the field, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Do you think that Tomlin interfered with Jones’ kick return on purpose? A video of the play in question can be viewed below (play begins around the :40 mark), or over at USA Today. Sound off in the comment section with your opinion.