Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference drew slightly more attention than usual on Tuesday.
Tomlin, who is expected to be disciplined by the league at any time for wandering into the field of play on Thanksgiving night — and into the path of Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones during a long kickoff return, told reporters that he hopes the league fines him and not the Steelers.
That’s the message from one of the various tweets posted in real time by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
What Tomlin wants may not matter. Three years ago, the NFL fined the Jets $100,000 after former strength coach Sal Alosi erected a wall on the far side of the white stripe, aimed at interfering with gunners from the opposing punt team.
While Tomlin occupies a higher position than Alosi did, Tomlin is the head coach. When the head coach breaks the rules, the coach and the team typically get punished.
Tomlin also reiterated his acceptance of responsibility for the situation.
“I don’t know what a just punishment is,” Tomlin said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “I’m not nervous about it. My money and wallet is what it is because of football.”
Maybe he should be nervous, given that he has helped make the case for a strong punishment from the league.
“My actions on that play are embarrassing,” Tomlin said, via Wilson. “I take full responsibility for my actions. I understand there are repercussions that come with a blunder of that nature. With my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of football.
“That play jeopardized the integrity of the NFL from a competition standpoint. That’s a mistake on my part. I was focused on the blunder itself and the embarrassment it produced. As a head coach in this league we are held to a higher standard of conduct. Based on that, my actions were below the line.”
Tomlin also expressed “shock” that some viewed his actions as intentional. Via Bouchette, Tomlin said he had adopted a false sense of security regarding his placement on kick returns because none all year had made it past the 50 yard line.
And while the question of intent remains relevant in the court of public opinion (and KDKA-TV angle that emerged on Monday tends to make Tomlin’s movements seem like something other than meandering), a league source tells PFT that, when it comes to the punishment to be imposed, intent is irrelevant. The rule was violated; whether Tomlin meant to do it doesn’t matter.
Arguably, it should — especially if Tomlin isn’t being honest about the situation. And while we (or at least I) believe Tomlin is being honest, the league should look at all available video in order to determine whether it was an accident. As we understand it, the league will indeed review all available video.
For now, the good news for Tomlin is that the NFL doesn’t care if he’s telling the truth. Then again, that may also be the bad news. They don’t care if he’s telling the truth because, regardless of the reason or the excuse, he ended up with a foot in the field of play, just as the action was coming toward him.