Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 by the NFL for his sideline interference last week where he nearly collided with Ravens kickoff returner Jacoby Jones, a punishment that met with approval inside the Ravens locker room.
"I think the punishment fits the crime," Ravens defensive end Chris Canty said. "The NFL does a good job of disciplining its employees."
The NFL also announced that the Steelers might be affected in terms of the draft this spring through either a modification or forfeiture of draft picks, to be determined at a later date. The Steelers organization wasn't fined, and Tomlin remains a member of the influential NFL competition committee.
"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 news release.
With his back turned to the play while watching the action on the Jumbotron at M&T Bank Stadium, Tomlin narrowly avoided running into Jones during a 73-yard kickoff return where Jones altered his path along the sideline before being tackled from behind by cornerback Cortez Allen during the second half of the Ravens’ 22-20 win.
“Shoot, that’s a lot of money,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said of the fine. “I’m glad it’s in the past. It’s all funny because we won. If we lost, I probably would be blaming him. I’m not going to lie. It’s tough. I can’t say he did it on purpose because I don’t know what he was thinking.
“It definitely sends a message across the league. He stepped across the line, which definitely threw me off. You can say he did it on purpose, but you don’t truly know. There are coaches standing in the white box all the time. It’s not like he did anything crazy.”
The discipline was issued by NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, issuing a fine matching a previous $100,000 fine for former Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice in 2005 for scalping Super Bowl tickets. The highest fine in NFL history for a coach was levied on New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick in 2007 when he was docked $500,000 for Spygate.
Tomlin was adamant Tuesday during an apologetic press conference where he called his actions “embarrassing” that he didn’t intentionally interfere with Jones.
"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 in a statement. "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."
Tomlin violated Rule 13, Section 1, Article 4 of the NFL rulebook for being in the restricted white border that surrounds the playing field and setting foot on the field during the play.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark took issue with the discipline from the NFL, taking a shot at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
“It's not supposed to be fair,” Clark told Pittsburgh reporters. “Roger Goodell. When has he been fair?"
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino had previously weighed in on the situation, saying the officiating crew should have flagged Tomlin for unsportsmanlike conduct.
From their standpoint, coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens have moved on.
"I don't really have a reaction per se," Harbaugh said Wednesday after the penalty was announced. "The NFL does a great job. We're all responsible -- officials, players, coaches -- for what happens between the white lines, and the NFL addresses those things and we're all responsible for that. We respect that. Those kind of things can happen and they do happen every single week and they're addressed.
"This one just got more attention than most of them. We've moved on from that. We respect the process. We respect everybody involved. We certainly respect the Steelers and Mike Tomlin completely. I never really thought for one second that there was intentionality there, personally. I think that's why I was able to make light of that after the game."
Smith joked that he’s not worried about Harbaugh venturing onto the field after Tomlin’s harsh punishment.
“Coach Harbaugh does a good job of staying back,” Smith said. “I’m sure he’ll take a few extra steps back now knowing it’s $100,000.”
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