PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin‘s ill-timed two-step has cost him $100,000 and could cost his team a pick in next year’s draft.
The league fined Tomlin $100,000 on Wednesday for interfering with a play against the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving.
The NFL also said it would consider docking Pittsburgh a draft pick “because the conduct affected a play on the field.”
Tomlin was not penalized on the play, though the NFL said Tomlin should have been flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for nearly colliding with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones during a kickoff return midway through the third quarter of a 22-20 Ravens victory.
The seventh-year head coach called the play “embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal and a blunder” but stressed it was not intentional.
“I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization,” Tomlin said in a statement Wednesday. “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 was standing on the restricted white border between the sideline and field during Jones’ kickoff return. Jones had to swerve to avoid running into the coach and was tackled after a 73-yard return that might have gone for a touchdown if not for the obstruction. Tomlin briefly stepped onto the field before he jumped back.
Tomlin said Tuesday he was “mesmerized” by watching the return on the video board and would accept any repercussions for his actions.
“I don’t know what a just punishment is,” he said Tuesday. “I have no idea. I’m not acting in a way to preserve my wallet and my money. My wallet and my money is what it is because of the game of football.”
Tomlin’s players have defended him, noting it’s not unusual for players or staff members to find themselves on the edge of the field during a play. Safety Ryan Clark admitted to standing near the playing surface while watching the Steelers attempt a late 2-point conversion in the final minutes against Baltimore.
“I’m always on the field,” Clark said. “I sit on the field, but I try to sit on it away from anything.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger declined to discuss whether the loss of a draft pick would be too excessive but added he doesn’t think the furor over Tomlin’s near-trip will serve as a distraction for Pittsburgh (5-7), which is still in the playoff hunt.