Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was contrite on Tuesday, admitting he made a "blunder" when he interfered with Jacoby Jones on his long kickoff return on Thanksgiving night. The NFL finally admitted on Tuesday what pretty much everyone who has seen the play already knew: The officials made a huge blunder as well.
Tomlin never made contact with Jones, but he clearly was in the 6-foot-wide white sideline border area, which is not allowed during play. Yet no penalty was called.
"“Anytime a player or a coach from the sideline is in this white area, that’s a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network.
What's hard to understand is how no flag was thrown.
Not only was Tomlin in the prohibited area, but field judge David Meslow actually had to run behind Tomlin to continue to officiate the play. And line judge Ron Marinucci, trailing the play up the left sideline, also had a perfect view of Tomlin's location in the prohibited area.
Two weeks ago, a Jets assistant was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after making contact with an official along that same sideline border at M&T Bank Stadium.
Tomlin is awaiting word from the NFL on punishment for his transgression, with a hefty fine the most likely outcome. The officiating crew, headed by referee Clete Blakeman, could face discipline as well.
Blandino reiterated that if officials deemed Tomlin had interfered with the play, the Ravens could have been awarded a touchdown via the rule known as the 'palpably unfair act.' But in order to do that, the officials would have had to have been certain that absent Tomlin, Jones would have scored.
"That’s not the case here," Blandino said, "but certainly Coach Tomlin was in the white. He should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.”