Pittsburgh Steelers: Tomlin Sideline Incident Should Not Cost Team a Draft Pick

Mike BatistaContributor IDecember 2, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sidelines during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin should no doubt be fined for having his foot on the field while Jacoby Jones was returning a kickoff on Thanksgiving night.

But to strip the Steelers of a draft pick for the incident would be ridiculous.

The Steelers had just scored a touchdown to pull within 13-7 of the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter of Thursday night's game.

Jones broke free down the Steelers sideline on the ensuing kickoff. Tomlin's right foot was on the field and in Jones' path. Tomlin, who had his back to the play, removed his foot just in time. But Jones still veered out of the way and was caught by Cortez Allen.

Jones' 73-yard kickoff return set up a field goal, and the Ravens went on to win 22-20.

Here's how Tomlin explained his actions, according to NFL.com:

"I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron; it provides a better perspective for me. Obviously, I lost my placement as he broke free, and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play."

It's plausible that watching the play on the Jumbotron caused Tomlin lose perception of where he was. Nonetheless, players and coaches are prohibited from stepping on the white stripe that separates the sideline from the field of play, according to ESPN.com.

The NFL even sent a video to all teams reiterating that rule the day before Thursday's Steelers-Ravens game, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports via Pro Football Talk.

Tomlin clearly violated that rule, so he can't go unpunished.

The NFL is reviewing the play, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, and considering a six-figure fine for both Tomlin and the Steelers as well as the loss of a draft pick.

According to Pro Football Talk, a decision is expected by the middle of the week.

The league fined the New York Jets $100,000 in 2010, according to the New York Daily News, when strength coach Sal Alosi stuck out his knee and tripped Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll on a punt.

Alosi orchestrated a "wall" of inactive Jets players to stand side-by-side and deter special teams opponents from venturing out of bounds, according to ESPN.com. The Jets suspended him and fined him $25,000, and he resigned after the season.

A head coach needs to set a better example than a strength coach. So if the Jets were fined $100,000 for Alosi's actions, a $100,000 fine for both the Steelers and Tomlin would be appropriate.

According to CelebrityNetWorth.com, Tomlin earns $5.75 million per year. Fining him $100,000 equates to a $50,000-a-year employee being fined $850. It sure would send the message that he needs to stay off the white sideline stripe.

It looks like Tomlin might have even stuck his foot farther inbounds before pulling it back at the last second. That could have been a body reaction upon realizing how close Jones was. It's hard to prove malicious intent, and it certainly wasn't premeditated. This was no scheme involving several people.

According to ESPN.com, the Jets in 2010 had been forming that sideline wall for several weeks. Alosi wasn't watching a Jumbotron. He was facing the action and stuck out his knee.

If the Jets didn't lose a draft pick for that, the Steelers shouldn't lose a draft pick for this.