Mike Tomlin walks the field while the Steelers warm up before facing off at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Thanksgiving evening.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Did he or didn't he?
Video of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shot by Michael Challik of KDKA and posted on KDKA.com Monday shows unequivocally that Tomlin stepped into the path of Baltimore's Jacoby Jones as he returned a kickoff in their Thanksgiving night game.
But did Tomlin pull his electric slide on purpose or did he lose his "placement" as he explained after the game?
That is part of what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was trying to determine and why he was on the phone Monday morning speaking with Steelers chairman Dan Rooney.
The Steelers said Tomlin would not be available to speak to the media Monday after practice, nor would Rooney, team president Art Rooney II or general manager Kevin Colbert. Tomlin's weekly news conference is at noon today.
Earlier in the day, Tomlin told his players they did not have to defend him to the media.
"I was advised that he didn't need any help in this situation," defensive captain Ryan Clark said, "and I shouldn't say much."
"He didn't advise us not to speak, but coach 'T' said he didn't need any help," Clark continued. "He was like, he understands the situation, he understands the process that has to happen. He was like, 'So I don't need you guys speaking up for me and trying to defend me.' He'll be fine."
There have been a slew of reports suggesting Tomlin will be fined heavily and that the Steelers could be punished as well.
The video shows Tomlin moving close to the sideline on the 6-foot white line that no coach nor player is supposed to occupy during play in the game. He has his back turned to the play, and he said he was watching the return on the video scoreboard, which was showing live action of Jones' return.
As Jones returned the kickoff along the left sideline that the Steelers occupied, Tomlin put his right foot onto the field of play and into the path of the return man. He then jerked it back as Jones slightly altered his route.
Cortez Allen caught up with him at that point, jumped on him and brought Jones down at the Steelers 27. The Ravens wound up with a field goal on the series.
Allen said he is positive he would have tackled Jones without Tomlin's help.
"I was just running to him, trying to get to him the best I could, but I would have made the tackle. I was going to get him anyway. I was confident I would have tackled him anyway."
The play could have drawn a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Tomlin, but it was not.
"It's just one of those things that happen, man," Clark said. "We all end up on the field sometimes. I do it sometimes watching the board, or you feel you're far enough from the play. It's an accident."
In 2010, New York Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami's Nolan Carroll, who did not have the ball, as he ran along the sideline. He was fined $25,000 and suspended the rest of the season. The Jets were fined $100,000.
Tomlin's actions were quite different from the previous time a Steelers coach attracted so much notoriety for stepping onto the playing field. In the third game of the 1997 season, the Steelers trailed at Jacksonville, 23-21, when Norm Johnson lined up for a 40-yard field goal with six seconds left that could win the game.
Instead, Jacksonville blocked the attempt, the Jaguars' Chris Hudson scooped the ball up and ran down the Steelers sideline with it. As he did, coach Bill Cowher stepped onto the field and reared back his right arm as if he were going to slug him. At the last second, Cowher pulled back off the playing field and Hudson completed his run for a touchdown and a 30-21 Jacksonville win.
Bell chilled by play
Rookie halfback Le'Veon Bell does not remember much of the play Thursday night that gave him a concussion and cost him a touchdown, but he turned emotional later while watching it on video and seeing his teammates kneeling and praying while he was being attended to.
"It kind of sent chills down my body when I saw it," Bell said in the locker room Monday after practice. "Just the fact I saw my teammates scared and even Baltimore Ravens over there. It was a scary thing to see."
Bell said he feels fine and has passed his recent concussion tests. He must pass more this week before he is permitted to play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.
The concussion occurred after Bell was hit helmet-to-helmet outside of the tackle box by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. The officials disallowed Bell's 1-yard touchdown run because his helmet flew off, they ruled, before he crossed the goal line.
Although no penalty for an illegal hit was called on that play, Smith could be subject to a fine. Bell absolved his opponent of any ill intent.
"The rule with the touchdown, it's an unfortunate rule but a rule is a rule, I didn't get the touchdown," Bell said. "I put everything out there for my team. I tried to get into the end zone.
"I don't know about the ... crown of the helmet rule. The guy was trying to make a play. I don't blame him for anything. He was trying to keep me out of the end zone. I don't think he purposely tried to hurt me, it was all just part of the play, us playing football."
The NFL announced that the game Dec. 15 between the Steelers (5-7) and Cincinnati Bengals (8-4) at Heinz Field would remain at 8:30 p.m. as scheduled. The time of the game was subject to being moved earlier in the day if NBC, which has the Sunday night package, wanted to switch it.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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