Steelers coach Mike Tomlin explained again on Tuesday that he didn’t intentionally try to obstruct Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones on Thanksgiving night while he, the Steelers and the rest of the NFL waited to see what kind of discipline the league might hand down for his visit to the field while the game was in play.
One punishment that Tomlin should certainly have gotten was a penalty from referee Clete Blakeman’s officiating crew. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed that the officials erred in not enforcing the rule that prohibits coaches from being on either the playing field or the white area on the sideline.
“Anytime a player or a coach from the sideline is in this white area, that’s a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct,” Blandino said on NFL Network. “If they interfere with the play, it could be what’s called a ‘palpably unfair act.’ In that instance, the referee could basically penalize the team whatever he deems equitable, which could include giving the Ravens a touchdown. That’s not the case here, but certainly coach Tomlin was in the white. He should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
That much was obvious on Thursday night. What remains unclear and what Blandino’s comment should include is some kind of explanation for why Blakeman and his crew didn’t make the call. The field judge has to run around Tomlin, eliminating any argument that he didn’t see the coach and making it seem that he simply doesn’t know the rules of the game he’s paid to officiate.
There’s been a lot of focus on Tomlin’s action and intent and rightfully so. The failure of the officials to do their jobs should be at least as significant an issue, especially for a crew that has dropped the ball continually this season.