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The Pittsburgh Steelers will in fact end up losing a late-round draft pick for coach Mike Tomlin’s actions on the sidelines Thanksgiving night, according to league sources. The NFL is not finalizing that decision until the spring, after all compensatory picks are sent.
When Tomlin’s discipline was announced by the league on Wednesday, including a $100,000 fine, the NFL included language in the ruling stipulating that a forfeiture, or altering, of the team’s picks was still possible but that nothing would be finalized on that until the spring. Many have taken that to mean the league would not impose any draft-pick penalties, or was including the language as something of an idle threat.
However, such assumptions are untrue, and there will be draft-pick compensation I’m told. Tomlin’s actions, when he stood on the sidelines too close to the action and appeared to make a motion on to the field as Raven Jacoby Jones was returning a kick for what may have been a touchdown -- Baltimore ended up settling for a field goal in a close game that came down to the very end of regulation and nearly went to overtime -- are not being taken lightly within the league office.
The NFL did not stipulate the exact nature of the draft-pick penalty because in its mind this remains an open case. Tomlin’s actions could have precluded the Ravens from scoring four more points than they did, and points scored can be a possible playoff tiebreaker. So the NFL does not know the full scope of the ramifications of Tomlin’s actions, nor does it know the full-range of Pittsburgh’s draft picks as compensatory picks, for instance, are not even awarded until the NFL’s annual spring meeting. So until the league has all of the information available, no decision will be announced.
But even if the Ravens make the playoffs, and that tiebreaker is not a factor, Pittsburgh will still face draft-pick compensation. It’s not an either/or situation. The Steelers have not been informed of any parameters or further details beyond what was included in the NFL’s press release when Tomlin’s fine was announced, and the front office at this point is operating under the assumption that some further penalty is coming.
As I reported last Sunday, the team was fearful they would lose a pick and the forfeiture of a draft pick -- or otherwise alteration of a drafting position -- was always a central part of the NFL’s consideration of discipline in this matter with the incident very much having the potential to impact competitive balance, something it takes very seriously.