The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Baltimore Ravens, their AFC North division rivals, on Thanksgiving night amid controversy surrounding a move by their coach. Head coach Mike Tomlin was accused of interfering with a kickoff return by Baltimore superstar Jacoby Jones during Thursday night’s game.
Coach Tomlin was watching Jacoby’s return on the Jumbotron and was standing very close to the field, with a foot actually on the sideline at one point during the return. As Jones closed in on Tomlin, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach quickly moved out of the way, but apparently not quickly enough. Jones says that the move did slow him down. He was tackled after a 73 yard punt return, but would likely not have been had it not been for Tomlin’s position on the field. The drive ultimately resulted in only a field goal for Baltimore.
Baltimore Quarterback, Joe Flacco, has voiced his opinion that the interference was intentional. It appears that NFL officials disagree, though, as Tomlin was not charged with unsportsmanlike conduct nor were the Pittsburgh Steelers penalized in any way for the controversial move. Tomlin denied that the move was purposeful and commented that it is it is generally his habit to watch kickoff returns on the Jumbotron as it gives him a better perspective than just watching the field.
The move by Tomlin wasn’t the only wild part of the hard-hitting game to make it a tough loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers amid controversy. The Pittsburgh Steelers trailed throughout the game, but were able to mount a late comeback. The team appeared to score two touchdowns near the end of the game, but both were overturned by officials upon review. Eventually, they were able to pull within two points. With the possibility of a tie resting on a successful two point conversion the team gave their fans hope, but a missed catch by receiver Emmanuel Sanders followed by an ineffective attempt at an onside kick left the final score in Baltimore’s favor. The Baltimore Ravens are now 6-6 on the season. They are in second place in the AFC North, trailing the 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals. The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 5-7.
There is no love lost between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens and any meeting between the notorious rivals is marked by its extreme physicality and jawing between the players both on and off the field. The rivalry has been called the “hardest hitting” in the NFL, but in the days leading up to the game, Baltimore quarterback, Joe Flacco referred to it as a “cool rivalry,” and the two teams seem to generally respect each other’s style of play even if it doesn’t show on the field. The teams are both known for strong defense and are frequently battling for the top spot in their division. In their last five straight meetings, the games have been extreme and come down to the fourth quarter, having all been decided by five or fewer points. The intensity of the rivalry surely makes the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss amid this controversy all the more painful.
By Michele Wessel