Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been fined $ 100,000 and the team could lose a draft pick or have its draft order modified next spring because Tomlin interfered with a Baltimore Ravens kickoff return Thursday.
The NFL did not fine the Steelers but, because the league said Wednesday that Tomlin’s action affected a play on the field, a forfeiture of draft picks or the alteration of the team’s position in the May draft will be considered after the final order of the 2014 draft is set. That will occur after the Super Bowl.
The NFL could choose to strip the Steelers of a draft pick, likely in a late round, or move them to the end of a round. It is unlikely the NFL would have included mention of a draft modification in its Tomlin discipline statement unless some action was planned.
The decision was announced by NFL vice president Ray Anderson.
Tomlin issued a statement but, unlike Tuesday when he addressed the issue for 20 minutes with reporters, he said he wouldn’t discuss it any longer.
“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 the 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 said Tuesday he was âœembarrassedâ by his conduct, but he insisted he didn’t intentionally interfere with Jacoby Jones’ 73-yard return — even though he edged close to the sideline as Jones approached, placed his foot on the field as Jones streaked by, then hopped out of the way.
That the league is weighing the loss of a Steelers draft pick or other draft modifications illustrates how severe the NFL believes Tomlin’s infraction was. Head coaches are held to an especially high standard, as Tomlin said multiple times during his Tuesday news conference.
When Jets strength coach Sal Alosi physically interfered with a kick return in 2010, the team was fined $ 100,000 but there was no other punishment.
Steelers players mostly shrugged off the disciplinary action, saying they were focused on Sunday’s home game against Miami.
“You knew they would come down on him hard, to set an example about the rule,” safety Ryan Clark said. “Coach Tomlin’s fine with it, he’s accepted responsibility for it, and kind of like he said, it’s time to move on. We’ve been talking about this play since last Thursday and it’s Wednesday. You’re glad it’s over.”
Defensive end Cam Heyward said of the fine, “That’s a lot of money. I hope he’s got it.”
“He’s a big boy. He wants to own up to his mistakes and just learn from it,” Heyward said. “He said don’t worry about it. We’re worrying about the Dolphins right now.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger declined to discuss the punishment, also saying he was worrying only about the Dolphins game.
The league also said the Steelers should have been penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct when Tomlin sidestepped onto the field as Jones raced by during a 73-yard kickoff return.
According to NFL vice president for officiating Dean Blandino, referee Clete Blakeman’s crew should have penalized Tomlin as soon as the infraction occurred.
“Any time 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 the 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 (stripe). He should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
On Tuesday, Tomlin said he hoped the Steelers would not be fined for his actions.
“I take full responsibility for my actions on the play,” Tomlin said. “I acknowledge that my actions unfortunately became part of the play. … I also embrace that as head coaches, we are held to the highest standards of conduct, and I realize that that blunder fell woefully short of that expectation, and in that vein, I … understand the repercussions from a blunder of that nature,” Tomlin said.
“I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night is not realizing that that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint. At no time Thursday night in the game or after, did I realize that my actions would be perceived potentially, or could be perceived potentially as intentional.”
The Steelers last lost a draft pick as punishment in 2001, when they were stripped of a third-round pick for paying offensive lineman Will Wolford a $400,000 bonus in violation of the NFL salary cap.
They also lost a third-round pick in 1978 when they were caught illegally wearing shoulder pads during a spring workout.
Clark initially told reporters he was glad the punishment didn’t include any possible loss of a draft pick. When told it might, he said, “That would be stupid.”
Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was with the Jets in 2010 when the Alosi interference occurred. Cotchery said that became a distraction because of the huge crush of New York media, but he said that won’t be the case this week.
“We’re trying to get into playoffs, we’ve got a good team - we’re 5-7 and we’re locked into the Dolphins,” Cotchery said. “Nobody has been talking about it.”
According to ESPN, fining Tomlin $ 100,000, who makes about $ 5.75 million per year — is the equivalent of fining an average wage earner $688.