Well, this is getting fun. And confusing.
Fan video posted on YouTube of the Jacoby Jones kickoff return seems to show Steelers coach Mike Tomlin executing his “side step right” maneuver the instant after it became obvious that Jones had broken through Pittsburgh’s kick coverage.
The video, shot from the stands and displaying a clearly unclear Zapruder-Meets-Where’s-Waldo? quality, shows the entire field for the full play. Based on the “all-22″ coaches film, Tomlin is the figure walking in the white stripe toward the Pittsburgh side of the 50, at roughly the 13-second mark. He then exits the stripe and walks around the official positioned at the Pittsburgh 45, a move that is far more clear in the “all-22″ film.
By the 23-second mark, Tomlin is back in the stripe, at the Pittsburgh 40.
Once it appears Jones is going to break it (at 25 seconds), the camera wobbles as the crowd reacts. At roughly the 26-second mark, Tomlin can been seen executing the side-step seen in the KDKA-TV end-zone angle.
In short (if that’s even possible), Tomlin steps toward the edge of the field after the initial crowd reaction, which happened as it became obvious to the crowd that Jones was going to have a chance at returning the kick for a touchdown. Which supports the notion that Tomlin saw the return develop and/or heard the reaction, and then deliberately stepped to the edge of the field.
While the new video isn’t clear enough to be conclusive, it becomes more imperative for the NFL to review as many angles as it can to decide whether Tomlin made that quick step to the edge of the field after Jones broke through the coverage. It’s entirely possible that the league will decide based on all available video that Tomlin’s movements reveal intent.
Intent doesn’t require hours or days of advance planing. All sorts of intentional acts happen with only a flicker of premeditation. Based on the currently available angles, a plausible case can be made that Tomlin made a knee-jerk, heat-of-the-moment decision to transform himself into an obstacle by taking a subtle yet distinct step toward the field.
With the game and in turn the Steelers’ playoff chances arguably riding on whether Jones scored a touchdown on that play, there’s a chance Tomlin yielded in a split-second to an overpowering temptation.