Here's what I think really happened:
The Steelers kicked off. Mike Tomlin stood where he always stands, to watch the return on the scoreboard like he always does. Baltimore's Jacoby Jones broke free and headed down the Steelers' sideline, right toward Tomlin.
Tomlin appraised the situation on the Jumbotron. He saw Jones approaching. Tomlin glanced over his shoulder. Tomlin judged that Jones was likely to score a touchdown, and likely to terminate the Steelers' chances of winning.
So Tomlin got in Jones' way. Tomlin was more obvious than he wanted, and got closer to Jones than he wanted. Tomlin's actions were not premeditated. They were impulsive. But I have zero doubt Tomlin meant to obstruct Jones.
It's manslaughter, not first-degree murder. But Tomlin is guilty.
I heard what Tomlin said. I choose to believe what I saw. Watch the KDKA-TV video that got shot from behind the return. Tomlin jumps toward Jones before shrinking away, and does so at the precise moment when Jones would be most impeded. If that's coincidence, it’s one heck of a coincidence.
Tomlin was standing where he shouldn't have. The NFL must punish the act, not judge the intent. But, upon further review, the intent seems obvious.
UPDATE: The NFL fined Tomlin $100K. The Steelers may yet lose a draft pick; that will be ruled upon once the 2014 draft order is determined.
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The Steelers will not – and should not – lose a draft pick as a result of Mike Tomlin’s sideline indiscretion at Baltimore this past Thursday. Rumors to that end are likely meant to threaten, not foreshadow.
But, accidental or not, the Steelers and Tomlin must be disciplined.
Tomlin kept Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones from scoring a touchdown. Had the Ravens lost, and subsequently missed the playoffs, Tomlin’s act could have compromised the entire NFL season. The game officials deserve secondary blame: A flag should have been thrown and a touchdown awarded, as the rules dictate.
Tomlin’s faux pas is not to be lightly dismissed. I don’t believe Tomlin stood on the white line looking to disrupt Jones’ return. But I don’t think Tomlin got out of the way as quickly as he could once he realized Jones was approaching. Tomlin took a step toward Jones before he pulled away. Smirking afterward didn’t help.
Fine the Steelers $50K. If the Steelers are to forfeit a draft choice, Art Rooney II should ask if the team can retroactively lose Landry Jones.
What Tomlin did must be punished. Beyond that, the Steelers find themselves a circus act once again. It’s becoming a habit.
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Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore. Lots on the line. Same as it ever was.
*Battle of the QBs: Ben Roethlisberger is 7-2 against Joe Flacco.
*Baltimore can't move the ball: The Ravens average 4.54 yards per play, 31st in the NFL. RB Ray Rice averages just 2.9 yards per carry, and just 4.7 yards per catch. Flacco has a low-rent QB rating of 76.8.
*Baltimore can kill your quarterback: The Ravens have 37 sacks, tied for most in the NFL. LB Elvis Dumervil has 9.5, LB Terrell Suggs has 9.
*Flacco is upset because the Ravens have been utilizing the wildcat, saying it makes the Ravens look like a "high school offense." Flacco is right, but here's what most puzzling: Flacco is getting paid $20 million per year to NOT take some snaps.
*Hidden Ravens tactic: Flacco heaves the ball long, and his receivers look for an interference flag. The Ravens use Flacco better than the Steelers use Roethlisberger. Credit to Roethlisberger for having the better season anyway.
*If you want proof that football is overcoached, consider: Tomorrow night, we watch a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback dinking and dunking, and the most recent Super Bowl-winning quarterback will line up at wide receiver so some jackass can feel like a genius calling plays in the wildcat.
*The no-huddle makes the Steelers' dink and dunk seem more threatening or, at the very least, more entertaining.
*It's great to see Troy Polamalu do well. He’s one of football's only true gentlemen. Toss out the New England debacle, and Polamalu is having a Pro Bowl season. Will Allen is seeing a lot of time as the third safety, and Polamalu gets to play like a linebacker, which best suits him and the Steelers.
*The Steelers D didn't get a takeaway for the first 17 quarters of the season. Now they have seven takeaways over the last two games. That's got a lot to do with luck, and crappy opposition. But mostly it's increased pressure on the QB. That always helps. Cam Heyward is a big part of that. In a 3-4, pressure on the QB by the defensive end is a bonus. Heyward provides that pressure on a consistent basis.
*Steve McLendon, the starting nose tackle, is injured. Al Woods - 30 pounds heavier - takes McLendon's place. With all due respect to McLendon, I like a big fatso at NT.
*The key to tomorrow's game is simple. The Steelers offensive line has played better, but faces a big challenge from Suggs and Dumervil. If the O-line keeps Ben relatively clean, the Steelers win. If it doesn't, the Ravens are going to smell blood, and win the game.
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