Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin drifted onto the field with his back turned to the play in the third quarter Thursday night, narrowly avoiding a collision with Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones during a long kickoff return.
The bizarre sequence during the 73-yard return sparked a controversy and angered the fans at M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens wound up settling for a field goal during the 22-20 victory.
Although Tomlin wasn't penalized for sideline interference as he jumped out of the way at the last second to avoid blocking Jones' path, Jones did appear to have to adjust to his direction. The Pro Bowl kick returner immediately complained after being tackled by cornerback Cortez Allen and pointed a finger at the Steelers' bench.
- Ravens' Flacco: 'Mike Tomlin stopped us one time' [Video]
- Ravens hold off Steelers' rally for 22-20 victory on Thanksgiving night
- Ravens preseason opener against San Francisco 49ers [Pictures]
- 2014 Ravens cheerleaders [Pictures]
- Ravens training camp [Pictures]
- 2013 Ravens cheerleaders [Pictures]
See more photos »
“Mike Tomlin stopped us one time,” said quarterback Joe Flacco while discussing the Ravens' missed opportunities on offense. “I took some flak kind of joking around at the Super Bowl saying that I was going to run out onto the field and tackle somebody if this guy breaks it. I caught some flak for that; that's exactly what he just did. He was looking at the big screen the whole entire time. He knew where he was. He knew where Jacoby was. He pulled my move.”
After the game, Tomlin said he didn't feel that he interfered with the play while acknowledging that he shouldn't have been on the field of play.
“I always watch the returns on the JumboTron; it provides a better perspective for me,” Tomlin said. “I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.
“... I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong, I accept responsibility.”
Jones didn't blame the coach for costing him a touchdown.
“As soon as I hit the hole and I was running down the sideline, I was looking at him the whole time like, ‘Is he going to move?'” Jones said. “Literally, I was thinking, ‘Is he going to move?' I just weaved out of the way. I broke my stride a little bit but I still should not have gotten caught. I would have done the same thing if I was him. ...
"Before I got to him, he was halfway on the field. He gave me a little juke, and I tried to juke him. It is what it is. He was on the field."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said jokingly about Tomlin: “I was wondering, ‘Did they credit him with the tackle on that?' That stuff happens.”
Aware that he was in the spotlight with all of the instant replays being shown, Tomlin eventually broke into a big smile.
“It was pretty funny to see him smiling about it afterwards,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “He was watching it on the screen. I don't know if he did it on purpose. They fine people for doing anything in this league. It definitely threw Jacoby off and cost us some points."
Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, now a Fox analyst, wrote on Twitter that the play deserved a penalty.
“I do think Tomlin should have been flagged,” Pereira wrote. “Official didn't run into him but he is watching the game on the jumbotron and is in the way. If they would have called the foul on Tomlin, they would have assessed 15 yards from the end of the run. Would not have awarded TD.”
Smith dominates Taylor
Smith has struggled in the past against outspoken Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, having trouble escaping from his aggressive brand of press coverage.
The former Maryland standout delivered a strong rebuttal Thursday, manufacturing his most productive game ever against the veteran defensive back.
Smith kept sprinting past Taylor, beating him for a 54-yard reception in the first quarter that set up his 7-yard touchdown two plays later in the back of the end zone. Smith had six catches for 93 yards, also drawing a 26-yard pass interference penalty in the second quarter.
“He's a great corner,” Smith said. “I should have had a great day. I did all right. I didn't make enough plays. Anytime you get to go against a guy of his caliber and do OK, it says something. ...