(Reuters) - The National Football League says it will investigate the actions of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin in coming close to Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return during Baltimore’s 22-20 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Video replays indicated that Tomlin, while standing on the stripe of white paint that edges the field, had his back to the play as he watched, via a giant screen, Jones power up the sideline for a 73-yard return.
Tomlin hopped out of the way just in time to avoid colliding with Jones but the wide receiver later said his stride had been broken “a little bit” by the Steelers coach, who could face possible discipline by the league.
“The play will be reviewed next week as per our normal procedures,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora told Reuters via email on Friday.
Tomlin readily conceded that his actions were wrong while speaking to reporters after his team’s narrow Thanksgiving Day defeat on Thursday.
”I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron; it provides a better perspective for me,“ Tomlin said. ”Obviously, I lost my placement as he broke free, and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.
“I do it quite often (watch the action via a Jumbotron), like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong, I accept responsibility.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 251 yards as his team fended off a ferocious late comeback by the Steelers, said that Tomlin knew exactly what he was doing.
“I took some flak kind of joking around at the Super Bowl saying that I was going to run out onto the field and tackle somebody if this guy breaks it,” Flacco told reporters.
“That’s exactly what he (Tomlin) just did. He was looking at the big screen the whole entire time. He knew where he was. He knew where Jacoby was. He pulled my move.”
Jones, however, played down the incident after giving his own account of what had happened.
“As soon as I hit the hole and I was running down the sideline, I was looking at him (Tomlin) the whole time like, ‘Is he going to move?'” Jones said.
“Literally, I was thinking, ‘Is he going to move?’ I just weaved out of the way. I broke my stride a little bit but I still should not have gotten caught. I would have done the same thing if I was him.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh joked about the play when asked his reaction.
“I was wondering, did they credit him with the tackle on that?” Harbaugh told reporters. “I really don’t know what to say about it other than stuff like that happens.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry