Mike Tomlin was “mesmerized.”
He was also, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach admits, out of position.
Way out of position.
Tomlin was so awed by the way Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones raced through the Steelers crumbling kickoff return unit in the third quarter Thanksgiving night, Tomlin couldn’t take himself away from watching it all unfold in high definition on one of M&T Stadium’s video boards.
Only when Tomlin – standing on the white strip of grass meant to separate the playing field from the sideline – saw his black-and-gold jacket and black baseball cap flash across the screen did he realize it might be a good time to move.
As Tomlin danced to his left, Jones edged right to avoid bowling the coach over.
Pittsburgh’s Cortez Allen made the tackle after a 73-yard return, a bizarre play that will be remembered far longer than Baltimore’s eventual 22-20 victory.
It’s an ill-timed two-step the 41-year-old Tomlin allows was a lot of things, namely “embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal and a blunder.”
The one thing it wasn’t, he insists, was intentional.
“The thought that it could be perceived as intentional never even crossed my mind,” Tomlin said Tuesday during a lengthy and candid apology. “I realized I fell short of the expectations of my position in being where I was and my actions on the play. I am not one to seek comfort from that standpoint, so I was just going to take my medicine.”
Tomlin was not flagged on the play, and pointed out he was following his normal routine when he stood at the Pittsburgh 35 following a touchdown that pulled the Steelers within 13-7 midway through the third quarter.
He prefers to watch kickoffs on stadium scoreboards because it gives him a better perspective on how the play is developing and couldn’t recall a specific time when officials told him to step back.
Still, Tomlin declined to use that as an excuse while communicating with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials Monday. Tomlin said he had no plans to fight whatever disciplinary action the league decides to hand out.
“I don’t know what a just punishment is,” he said. “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.”
The NFL fined the New York Jets $100,000 in 2010 when cameras caught strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripping a Miami player on the sideline.
Alosi was suspended by the Jets and eventually resigned after the season.
While Tomlin’s job status is certainly not in jeopardy, he is aware critics believe he was attempting to gain a competitive advantage. It’s why he felt the need to speak up.
“It’s been shocking to me that my actions could have been or have been perceived in any way intentional,” he said.
Which is why Tomlin was a little surprised his sons told him the incident kept coming up during the usual Sunday NFL TV coverage.
“When I realized the integrity of the game became the chief issue in the discussion, it was an opportunity and the time was appropriate to set the record straight,” he said.
Tomlin acknowledged there was a memo sent out by the league last week asking coaches to be more mindful of where they stand on the sideline.
He said he might have missed it because the Steelers were facing the Ravens on a short week.
Regardless, he stressed he will do a better job “policing” himself in the future and stay out of harm’s way. He still plans on watching kickoffs on video boards. He just plans to do it from a safer (and legal) vantage point.
As for whether his public expression of remorse could have any effect on whatever fine is coming his way, Tomlin considered it the least of his problems.
“I guess, he said, “we will all make due.”
Notes: DE Brett Keisel will miss Sunday’s game against Miami (6-6) after aggravating a left foot injury against the Ravens. ... LB LaMarr Woodley (left calf strain) will be limited in practice. ... The remaining players injured against the Ravens, including running back Le’Veon Bell (concussion), offensive linemen Kelvin Beachum (right knee sprain) and David DeCastro (left foot sprain), could play this weekend.
Mike Tomlin was “mesmerized.”
Pirates, Jays rained out
The Toronto Blue Jays' spring training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Thursday.
The game will not be made up.
Pirates rough up Blue Jays’ Morrow
Brandon Morrow allowed five runs and six hits over three innings in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-4 loss Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morrow was making his second appearance since a season-ending forearm injury last May. On Feb. 28, the right-hander gave up two hits and one run in two relief innings.
Steelers sign Polamalu, cut Foote
Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller are doing their part to help the Pittsburgh Steelers get under the 2014 salary cap.
The eight-time Pro Bowl safety and the venerable tight end both signed new three-year contracts with the team on Wednesday designed to give the Steelers some cap relief before the new league year begins next week.
Pens pick up pair of forwards
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t go for the big splash at the trade deadline this time.
General manager Ray Shero believes the little ripples his team made instead can be just as effective as the franchise pursues its fourth Stanley Cup.
Penguins snap out of slump
Matt Niskanen scored his second goal of the game 7:29 into the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game skid.
Niskanen and the Penguins helped ruin the return of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in his first game since Oct. 22 following an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip.
Morton throws three scoreless innings in Pirates victory
Charlie Morton allowed one hit in three scoreless innings, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Morton did not strike out a batter, but he kept Detroit off the bases during his short stint, aside from Don Kelly’s second-inning double.
Alvarez, Martin hit two-run shots in Bucs’ win
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin hit two-run homers off Brandon Workman, who started in place of injured Jake Peavy, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Red Sox 7-6 Monday.
Pittsburgh leadoff batter Starling Marte reached on an infield single in the first that stopped an 0-for-9 start, and Alvarez homered to right off Workman with two outs.
- Pirates topple Phillies and Burnett
Blackhawks hammer Pens
The swirling snow and frigid conditions made it even more fun for Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toews had two goals and an assist at a picturesque Soldier Field, and the Blackhawks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Saturday night in the finale of the NHL Stadium Series.
Bucs tie Rays in 10 innings
Wandy Rodriguez had a solid spring training debut while facing major league batters for the first time in nearly nine months, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays played to a 2-all tie in 10 innings.
Rodriguez worked one inning for the Pirates, did not allow a hit and struck out two. It was a good first step back for the left-hander, who missed most of last season due to persistent forearm pain.
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