Just when you think you’ve seen it all in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, a head coach makes a “tackle.”
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin might as well land in the box score.
At least that’s how the Ravens feel.
Tomlin stepped in the way of Jones during what could have been a kickoff return for a touchdown during the third quarter of Thursday night’s game.
Jones burst up the left sideline without being touched. He had no Steelers players in front of him. But there was Tomlin.
Tomlin was on the sideline watching the return unfold on the huge RavensVision boards. He had his back to Jones, but was looking over his inside shoulder.
Just before Jones got to him, Tomlin reached his right foot briefly onto the field, then quickly pulled it back.
Jones veered a bit inside and was then tackled by Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen. It was a return of 73 yards and the Ravens ended up settling for a field goal instead of a potential touchdown.
Tomlin said he did not feel like he interfered with Jones on the play.
“I always watch the returns on the jumbotron, it provides a better perspective for me,” he said. “I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.”
Tomlin was asked whether he knew he’s supposed to be behind the white stripe on the sideline – and therefore shouldn’t have been close to the field.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Tomlin said. “I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong, I accept responsibility for it.”
Now here’s Jones’ take on what happened:
“I promise you, I’m looking at [Tomlin] the whole time,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘Does he know he’s on the field?’ I’m running, I’m looking at him, and as I get close I’m like, ‘Is he going to move?’ I just weaved to get out of the way. It broke my stride a little bit.
“He gave me a little juke, and I tried to juke him. It is what it is. … I don’t blame other people for the actions. I still should have scored. As long as we got the ‘W,’ I’m fine.”
The Ravens were able to laugh off the whole incident after winning, 22-20. But it could have been the difference between a win and loss.
“I was wondering, did they credit him with the tackle on that?” Head Coach John Harbaugh asked reporters in jest. “Hey, that stuff happens. It happens. I really don’t have anything to say about it other than, stuff like that happens.”
Players didn't hesitate to accuse Tomlin of wrong doing.
“He did it on purpose,” wide receiver
“He made the tackle, so to say,” linebacker
There was no flag from officials on the play for stepping onto the live field. Last week, refs flagged a New York Jets coach for getting in the way of a referee on the sideline. This time, a Steelers coach got in the way of a Ravens player.
The Ravens quarterback remembered that on Thursday night.
“That’s exactly what he just did,” Flacco said, inciting laughter among the media. “He was looking at the big screen the whole entire time. He knew where he was, and he knew where Jacoby was. He pulled my move.”
Under the NFL rule book's palpably unfair act, the referee and his crew can award a score if a player or substitute were to "interfere with play by any act which is palpably unfair." The crew can enforce any such distance penalty they consider equitable. The offender may be disqualified.
The video boards at M&T Bank Stadium showed a replay of the return and fans booed and chanted at Tomlin. The Steelers coach looked up at the video boards and smiled.
"They always like to show me on the jumbotron here in Baltimore," he said. "I appreciate that."
Now the question is whether Tomlin will be punished by the league, and if so, what might the punishment be.
According to the NFL rule book, “The Commissioner has sole authority to investigate and to take appropriate disciplinary or corrective measures if any club action, nonparticipant interference, or emergency occurs in an NFL game which he deems so unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of a game.”
“They fine people for doing anything in this league, so I’m sure they will probably,” Smith said.