Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is now infamous for the play in which he interfered with Baltimore Ravens speedy wide receiver Jacoby Jones and probably impacted the play in the process. Whether or not he impacted the play significantly remains to be determined by the NFL, and they will also try to determine the intent of Tomlin’s actions. Tomlin maintains that he was standing so close to the play on accident (he claims he was watching the game on the “Jumbotron”, which sounds a lot like “dog hate the homework” to many), but I’m sure the league isn’t so convinced that an NFL head coach would unwittingly be that close to the play.
The Steelers still lost that game 22-20 against the rival Ravens and most likely won’t be making the playoffs this year, but that doesn’t mean the league is going to forget about this incident any time soon. The urgency to punish Tomlin and the Steelers organization would have been greater had the Steelers won, but the league is still going to take plenty of time to review this snafu.
CBS Sports’s Jason La Canfora reports that a league source stated the NFL is doing “an aggressive review” of the play that La Canfora aptly terms as a “near-interference”. The NFL is taking this very seriously, and they are going to try to ascertain just how much Tomlin impacted the play. A fine sounds almost inevitable at this point, and La Canfora implies in this report that Tomlin’s fine will be extremely significant.
But a fine isn’t the only thing that could happen out of this, as La Canfora reports something very interesting: the Steelers are afraid that the team could lose a draft pick as a result of Tomlin’s near-interference. I’m betting that the league would “only” snag a seventh from the Steelers if they did penalize the team by taking away a draft pick, but that’s still no light matter. Draft picks are extremely valuable, especially in today’s NFL. Additionally, most of the Steelers team-building takes place in the draft, as they are one of the best teams in the NFL at drafting.
Tomlin’s job should be safe, but he’s no lock. If the Steelers do lose a draft pick, then that doesn’t bode well for him at all. I definitely think, though, that penalizing the Steelers organization this severely is over-the-top. Fining Tomlin a huge amount is deserved, but taking away a draft pick from the Steelers is quite ridiculous. I highly doubt that happens, and it would be extremely disappointing for that to happen. Still, the fact that the Steelers are afraid of this either means that they are a bunch of paranoid parrots or it indicates that the league is extremely irate at Tomlin’s actions. The latter seems like a guarantee, especially since Tomlin did this near-interference on a Thanksgiving Day game that was televised in front of a national audience and that had rivalry pride and, most importantly, major playoff-seeding ramifications on the line.