The NFL fined Steelers coach Mike Tomlin $100,000 on Wednesday and threatened to strip Pittsburgh of a draft pick for stepping in front of Jacoby Jones during a kickoff return on Thanksgiving night.
However, the league stopped short of suspending Tomlin for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
Tomlin, who is a member of the league’s competition committee, said in a statement Wednesday that he takes “full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.”
Tomlin also accepted the league’s decision and then said he would no longer discuss the issue.
But shortly thereafter, he was on a conference call with Miami reporters and did just that — at least indirectly. Tomlin said it has been “easy” to keep his focus on the Dolphins.
“The only thing we can control is our preparation and ultimately our play this week,” Tomlin said. “That’s the now and what’s immediately ahead of us. That’s what I try to do, and I relay that attitude and sentiment to our football team. I think it’s something they embrace.”
Tomlin’s errant step conjured up memories of when former Jets assistant Sal Alosi tripped Nolan Carroll on a similar return. Alosi was suspended and ultimately resigned when it was uncovered that he had ordered New York players to form a wall along the sidelines.
The league didn’t go that far with Tomlin, and in Pittsburgh some even found humor in the days since.
“I don’t think it is [a distraction],” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “If anything, guys joke about it more. They’re the ones pulling up pictures online [of Tomlin] and joking with Coach about something. If anything, maybe it’s a light-hearted fun thing.”
Tomlin was far more willing to talk about his former deep-threat receiver Wednesday.
He opened his conference call by asking, “How’s my man Mike Wallace doing down there?”
Tomlin, who once famously called Wallace a one-trick pony, practically gushed about Miami’s highest-paid player.
“It’s no question, and he’s got a distinguishing characteristic,” Tomlin said. “He can take the top off of a coverage. Anytime the ball’s snapped, he’s capable of scoring, so whether or not he has the ball or not he affects the game, and anybody that plays with him or against him can tell you that.”
Roethlisberger said the Steelers miss Wallace as both a player and a friend. He also took issue with how some in the media characterized Wallace’s time in Pittsburgh, particularly his final year when he held out of training camp because of his contract situation.
“Mike’s just a great person,” Roethlisberger said. “I think he got unfairly criticized here at times. I couldn’t speak enough for Mike for how great of a teammate he was and the person he was in the huddle, the sideline, in the locker room. Just a fun guy to be around.”
Running back Daniel Thomas said he’s “still not sure” if he will play again this season after injuring his ankle, but he added that he has “come a long way.”
Thomas warmed up with the team Wednesday but didn’t practice. Neither did John Jerry (concussion) or Jamar Taylor (hamstring).
Sept. 28, 2014, will kick off at 6 p.m. London time, which will be 1 p.m. locally.