The NFL has fined Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin $100,000 for stepping onto the field during a kickoff return during last Thursday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. Reports from several media outlets have also said that the NFL is still considering penalizing Pittsburgh further, with a possible loss of a draft pick being a consideration.
Tomlin’s comments about the incident have been mainly communicating messages of accountability and being apologetic, but they have largely danced around the main question: were his actions, which led to the Steelers stopping Ravens return man Jacoby Jones just short of the end zone, intentional? Tomlin might be the only one who knows for sure.
It’s easy to understand how it could have been on purpose. Pittsburgh is mired in a frustrating season full of inconsistency, injuries and underachievement. The clock is ticking towards the Steelers being eliminated from playoff contention, as they need to win out just to finish with a winning record this season. The normally prolific running game is second-last in the NFL in yards per game.
This could be the first losing season for Pittsburgh since Tomlin took over as head coach, and the second consecutive non-winning season as the Steelers finished at 8-8 last year. The rumors of strained relations between offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have also become an issue.
All those things could have been building up inside Tomlin and when he saw his special teams blowing a coverage in a pivotal game against a division rival, it could have finally been too much. Tomlin took a slight step out onto the field at the opportune time in a moment of indiscretion to release his frustrations. He knew better. It won’t happen again. Tomlin is a better coach and individual than that.
Of course, it is possible that Tomlin simply lost track of where he was on the field and his actions were inadvertent. As previously mentioned, he is the only one that knows absolutely for sure. Either way, the strain of a frustrating couple of seasons is probably wearing on Tomlin, and it has cost him a $100,000 and potentially a draft pick for his team.