Tomlin fined, draft picks held over Steelers collective heads

Ezra Shaw

The NFL certainly is in a position to take away draft picks from the Steelers, but their actions in fining Mike Tomlin, and not the team, show it's nothing more than an idle threat.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 - or less than one half of one offensive lineman the Steelers may need yet to sign and play this season - for his sideline escapades during a kick return by Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones.

But the big news item is the statement from the NFL, in announcing the fine, they may consider a forfeiture of draft picks as well.

Puh-leeze.

If you were going to take picks away, NFL, you would have. If this was an offense even close to meriting such a punishment, you would have at least fined the team.

Their reasoning seems to be based in the idea Tomlin's actions might have affected a play on the field. In the league's statement, as transcribed by the Could Be News leader Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, "Because the conduct affected a play on the field, a modification or forfeiture of draft choices will be considered after the final order of the 2014 draft has been determined."

Might have been. Could be. All qualifying statements to protect a news source in the event that nothing, in fact, happens.

What's certain (hence the reason Rosenthal didn't write it) is that play will not affect a play for the remainder of the season. There is no future motivation to reduce picks, unless Tomlin somehow has not yet received the message he shouldn't be that close to the field of play, whether he's watching the Jumbotron, spotting his family in the stands or is admiring the night sky.

While everyone rushes to smear the reputation of a coach who, outside of a boneheaded lack of awareness, has an immaculate record, let's not lose sight of what this is; an idle threat from a league that should double as a grade school principal.

It's the classic "it could have been much worse, so mind your Ps and Qs, buster," because merely the threat of reducing a pick to a media so obsessed with its amateur draft is tantamount to actually taking the pick away.

A strategic move by an organization that manipulates the media better than the presidency. But ultimately, a hollow threat that's based more in sending a message to 31 other head coaches. A message even stronger than $100,000 cash.

The removal of the most powerful narcotic in sports; draft picks.

It's a weak threat. If the league felt the Steelers should somehow shoulder some of the blame for Tomlin's actions, they would have fined the organization. They deliberately chose the "Fine and Threaten" path because that's far more attention-grabbing than taking money away from the head coach. Nevermind most people would be shocked to attention if they were required to pay, in cash, three percent of their yearly salary. The league is saying, "let's slake the bloodthirst of Steelers haters, and agitate the fans of the team with something so profound, legend will only show Tomlin's actions were so severe, we nearly took the Steelers' recess privileges away for the entire semester.

And maybe cancelled Movie Day too.

This isn't written to fault the NFL for such thinly veiled message control. Rather, to dissuade the masses from thinking this is something even being discussed. After all, this is the same commissioner who suspended Ben Roethlisberger for uncharged allegations.

And it was a six-game suspension that only Roger Goodell had the power to reduce to four games.

Hey, look at that...there IS precedent in this situation.

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