Steelers coach Tomlin fined $100K by NFL
By Alan Robinson
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 11:30 a.m.
The NFL is hoping a $100,000 fine will make Steelers coach Mike Tomlin walk the straight and narrow.
Tomlin on Wednesday drew the second-largest head coaching fine in NFL history for stepping into the path of Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones — intentionally or not, an act that turned a coach into a participant.
Tomlin's misstep didn't affect the outcome of the Steelers' 22-20 loss in Baltimore on Thursday. But the NFL is sending an message that such sideline behavior won't be tolerated, especially by one of the highest-profile coaches in the game.
The Steelers weren't fined in a decision handed down by NFL vice president Ray Anderson, but they could lose 2014 draft picks or have their draft position altered.
“Because the conduct affected a play on the field, a modification or forfeiture of draft choices will be considered after the final order of the 2014 draft has been determined,” the league said in a statement.
Several Steelers players were surprised at the severity of the punishment.
“Oh, wow. I guess he got it,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “He got fined.”
“You knew they would come down on him hard to set an example about the rule,” safety Ryan Clark said. “Coach Tomlin's fine with it. He's accepted responsibility for it, and kind of like he said, it's time to move on.”
Tomlin already has.
Tomlin on Tuesday called his actions “embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal,” but he emphasized he did not intentionally get in Jones' way. He said that if the Steelers' owners believed he did, he probably wouldn't be the Steelers' coach.
His post-punishment comments Wednesday were limited to a 51-word statement, leaving his players to talk for the organization.
“As I stated yesterday, I take full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization,” Tomlin said. “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 only larger fine given a head coach was $500,000 to Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots' Spygate scandal. Former head coaches Wade Wilson (2007, use of a banned substance) and Mike Tice (2005, scalping Super Bowl tickets) also drew $100,000 fines.
“It definitely sends a message across the league,” Ravens receiver Torrey Smith told Baltimore reporters. “He stepped across the line.”
The controversy might have been averted had referee Clete Blakeman's crew assessed Tomlin a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, as the league said it should have done.
The Steelers last lost a draft pick as punishment when they were stripped of a third-round pick in 2001 for paying offensive lineman Will Wolford a $400,000 bonus in violation of the salary cap. They also lost a third-round pick in 1978 for illegally wearing shoulder pads during a spring workout.
The league could choose to take away a lower-round pick or picks or, possibly, force the Steelers to drop to the end of a round — or take no action at all.
Because points allowed and points scored are among the wild-card tiebreaking procedures, the Tomlin play theoretically – if not realistically — could affect the playoff seeding. The Ravens settled for a field goal, rather than the touchdown, following Jones' return.
Defensive end Cam Heyward joked that, from now on, the players will watch Tomlin to make sure he doesn't wander onto or near the field again.
“We're not going to let him get in trouble like that again,” Heyward said. “We're a team. It was an unfortunate mistake.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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