Mike Tomlin would like you to know that his actions were unintentional. (Gail Burton/AP)
There's been a lot of talk about the on-field move that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made during the kick return from Baltimore Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones during the two teams' matchup on Thanksgiving night. Tomlin inadvertently stepped on the field from his sideline, and Jones had to break from his path to avoid a collision. Jones returned the kick for a 73-yard gain with 6:26 left in the third quarter of the Ravens' 22-20 win, but was tackled by defensive back Cortez Allen on the play. Baltimore had to settle for a field goal on the subsequent drive.
During his Tuesday morning press conference, Tomlin opened with a statement that he hoped would put the matter to rest from an integrity perspective.
"I thought I'd break from my normal routine and do what's appropriate under the circumstances," he said. "I thought I'd start by outlining the kickoff coverage play from Thursday night, and make a statement regarding my actions and thoughts surrounding that, and then provide you guys with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
"My descriptions of my actions on that play are a lot of things -- embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal, a blunder, being many of the things I'd use to describe it. I take full responsibility for my actions on that play. I acknowledge that my actions unfortunately became part of the play. I also embrace that as head coaches, we're held to the highest standards of conduct, and I realize that that blunder fell woefully short of that expectation. In that vein, I embrace the responsibilities that come with my position, and understand the repercussions from a blunder of that nature. I also understand that with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football. My biggest error was not realizing that that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint."
Tomlin went on at length, trying his best to contradict any inference that he was on the field intentionally. The NFL has been looking into the incident and has not brought penalties against Tomlin and the Steelers, but reports indicate that the team could be docked draft picks, and Tomlin could face a heavy fine.
To his credit, Tomlin also addressed the jokes that have been made at his expense.
"I did see the Soul Train picture. That was interesting," Tomlin said. "I've heard all the jokes. And I've got it coming."
If you haven't seen the Soul Train picture in question, it's a Photoshop from a gentleman who goes by the Twitter handle " @MackDaddyWayne," and it's pretty glorious.
Last Friday, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that Tomlin isn't the only head coach ever to be on the wrong side of the sideline.
"Yeah, I’ve been blown up a couple times. There’s one play in particular where I was kind of watching the pass rush of the front and the ball was thrown. I didn’t really follow the ball that quickly and all the sudden the guy caught it and was right on top of me and [I] ended up under the Gatorade bench. Obviously if you’re watching the ball, it shouldn’t be that big of a problem. But if you’re trying to watch something else … Obviously we have to give the officials and the players room to play. Sometimes that just happens where you get guys caught up a little bit on the sideline. But yeah, I saw the play last night. I was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah.’ That could easily happen to any of us. It’s a good lesson, I have to be careful."
At least Tomlin missed the Gatorade bench, but he's going to face some heat from the league sooner or later.