While we may never know for sure if Mike Tomlin purposely positioned himself on the edge of the sideline in hopes of slowing the stride of Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones as he sprinted with the ball near the sideline on Thanksgiving, the prime-time setting of the game and subsequent ubiquitous media coverage of the incident aren't doing the Pittsburgh Steelers nor their head coach any favors.
Video evidence from multiple angles showed Tomlin actually making a quick side step onto the field of play as Jones neared, which likely led to him being tackled.
Just about everyone missed Tomlin's controversial placement during live action. But after a few vigilant Twitter users with DVR capabilities tweeted stills and even GIFs of the play, the NBC broadcast made mention of the suspicious move and immediately showed a plethora of replays with commentary.
The Steelers rallied to erase a 19-7 fourth quarter deficit, but ultimately lost 22-20 in a thrilling rivalry game. However, the Tomlin-Jones fiasco late in the third quarter became a major storyline.
To add to the firestorm and broaden the audience awareness of the unusual and possibly illegal action, the Internet went on a Photoshopping spree the next day:
Essentially, Tomlin's indiscretion couldn't have gotten more play on social networks and in the media. The play warranted a review from the NFL.
NFL is, obviously, reviewing Mike Tomlin's sideline antics/interference with Jacoby Jones from last night.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) November 29, 2013
But we can't totally ignore the notion that because the incident took place on such a magnified setting and was the most-discussed takeaway from the holiday action, the league might feel obligated to come down harder on Tomlin than it might have otherwise.
Remember, during the 2010 regular season, New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll after he was forced out of bounds on punt coverage.
Although Alosi was never punished by the league, the Jets suspended him for the final six games of the season, including the playoffs, without pay and fined him $25,000 dollars.
The maneuver received a great deal of publicity, but many applauded the way in which the team handled the situation internally.
Nearly three weeks later, the league fined the Jets $100,000, stating: "This is both a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic."
During a famous New England Patriots playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts in the winter of 2004, Bill Belichick was caught trying to step in front of wideout Marvin Harrison after he went out of bounds on a Ty Law interception of Peyton Manning.
Though undoubtedly during a high-profile game, the scrutiny of Belichick's blatant unsportsmanlike tactic died down rather quickly and the Patriots head coach didn't receive any league sanctions. That's not possible in 2013.
The NFL very well may simply want to put an end to this hazardous infringement by being extremely aggressive in how it disciplines Mike Tomlin and the Steelers.
A new video angle released from the local CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh shows Tomlin moving near the sideline as Jones made his way down the perimeter. It could further solidify the league's case against Tomlin.
But with essentially all talking heads and writers discussing Tomlin's interference this week, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the NFL could feel compelled to levy a harsher punishment than it would have had this exact incident occurred during a 1 p.m. game between the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars.
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