Dean Blandino: Referees should have penalized Mike Tomlin

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said Tuesday that Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin should have been called for a penalty last Thursday night, even if he inadvertently stepped on the field during a second-half kickoff.

Tomlin, who was watching the stadium's video board at the time, likely is facing a fine for having one foot on the field as Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones approached him. Tomlin moved his foot off the field right before Jones passed him, but it has caused a controversy whether Tomlin's actions were intentional.

Regardless, Blandino said during his weekly appearance on NFL Network's "Around The League" that the referees should have flagged Tomlin with a 15-yard penalty for standing beyond the white area during play.

"Anytime a player or a coach from the sideline is in this white area, that's a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conducted," Blandino said. "If they interfere with the play, it could be what's called a 'palpably unfair act.' In that instance, the referee could basically penalize the team whatever he deems equitable, which could include giving the Ravens a touchdown.

"That's not the case here, but certainly coach Tomlin was in the white. He should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Our official has been … that has been addressed with our staff. Going forward, we want to make sure they do flag coaches, players who are in the white during the play.

Blandino said Jones could have been awarded a touchdown if the interference was deemed egregious.

"If the official deems that a player or coach from the sideline interferes with the play on the field, he could award a score if he felt that the action prevented the player from advancing to the opponent's goal line," he said. "So the officials didn't feel that, but they certainly should have flagged coach Tomlin for unsportsmanlike conduct for being in the white during the play."

Blandino said the officials also erred in not allowing for the Washington Redskins to get a measurement with less than two minutes to play in the Sunday night game against the New York Giants.

The head linesman called for the chains to be moved after a pass reception while the referee made no signal, causing the Redskins to think they had gained a first down.

"So obviously there was some confusion," he said. "What should have happened, in hindsight ... we felt, in looking at it in our review, the referee should have stopped the game at this point, quickly reset everything, make sure everybody knows that this is a third-down play. And then wind the clock back up again. So that's what should have happened.

"Once we run a play, it's basically over. We can't go back. And that's where, in that split second, those couple of seconds prior to that snap, that's when that decision has to be made to stop the game and reset the down box to third down."

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