Scott Brown | ESPN.com
PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin offered a sweeping apology for his sideline interference during a kickoff return Thursday night, calling it “embarrassing,” “inexcusable” and “illegal.”
But the Pittsburgh Steelers coach also tried to make just as clear Tuesday that he did not intentionally try to affect the play that has stirred national interest and will result in some form of punishment by the NFL.
“It’s been shocking to me that my actions could have been perceived or have been perceived in any way as intentional in regard to my action on that play,” Tomlin said. “I would never do such a thing. I would never consider doing such a thing.”
Tomlin devoted the first 20 minutes of his weekly news conference to the play in which the Baltimore Ravens‘ Jacoby Jones may have scored a touchdown had he not shifted direction because Tomlin’s right foot was on the field.
Tomlin struck a conciliatory tone — and pretty much executed an about-face from his comments after the Steelers’ 22-20 loss last week, when he said he was in the white stripes that separate the sideline from the field because other coaches do the same thing.
“I can’t be in that space and I was, so I take full responsibility for that,” Tomlin said. “It’s an inexcusable blunder on my part. I understand with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football, and I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night is not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint.”
It’s an inexcusable blunder on my part. I understand with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football, and I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night is not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint.
” — Mike Tomlin
Tomlin said he has communicated several times with Roger Goodell and that he spoke with the NFL commissioner Monday as well as with Ray Anderson, the league’s senior vice president of football operations.
Punishment for the incident could include a six-figure fine for Tomlin and the loss of a draft pick for the Steelers, sources have told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Tomlin said he underestimated how big of a story the sideline interference would become, and he has since tried to minimize any damage the incident has caused.
“The possibility that my actions could be perceived in that way never crossed my mind, to be honest with you,” Tomlin said. “That’s probably the chief mistake I made, because had I realized the potential for that, then I could have guided my actions in order to safeguard the integrity of the game, and I didn’t do that.”
Tomlin said Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II have not addressed the incident with him, and several players have defended Tomlin, including team captains Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Clark.
“I don’t think it was intentional,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday morning on 93.7 The Fan. “I know exactly what he’s talking about when he says he gets caught up watching that because I watch the Jumbotron too. It does give you better views.
“I’m going to take the approach that this is a Coach Tomlin thing. This is Steelers, NFL; this doesn’t have anything to do with us as players. We’ve just got to go play the games. That’s the mentality I’m going to have, and I’m pretty sure most of the guys will as well.”
Tomlin was unusually open during the part of his news conference that dealt with the sideline incident. He said such transparency wasn’t intended to “preserve me money.” Nor did Tomlin feel the need to defend his integrity even though film shot by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh shows him stepping onto the field right before Jones ran past him and then jumping out of the way.
“I won’t defend myself,” Tomlin said. “The people that know me, I don’t need to do that. The people that don’t know me, they’re going to make their judgments anyway. I do care about the perceptions of the integrity of our game.”
Social media has been abuzz with opinions in the aftermath of Tomlin’s footwork. Doctored pictures have also surfaced, including one that depicts Tomlin on the show “Soul Train.”
“I’ve heard all the jokes,” Tomlin said, “and I’ve got it coming.”
- Covered Steelers for six years for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- Author of five books, including “Heaven Sent: The Heather Miller Story,” which highlights the friendship a young girl with cancer developed with several Steelers players