Steelers’ Tomlin: On-field foray was ‘inexcusable’

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PITTSBURGH (AP) - 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.

Too late.

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.

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