Had Bill Belichick done anything like what Mike Tomlin did on Thanksgiving, potentially impeding a Jacoby Jones during a kickoff return, the public outcry across the nation would be deafening. The New York Post would print an entire sports page in asterisks. Marshal Faulk would claim that the Rams dynasty was somehow ended by where Belichick stood on the sideline in Super Bowl XXXVI. It would be a field day for Patriots haters.
Mike Tomlin has been fined $100,000 for his sideline shuffle. The Steelers might also lose a draft pick. And I actually think that's kind of harsh. I understand that you want to deter coaches from doing stuff like this. However the best way to deter this is to penalize the team 15 yards. Nothing hurts a coach more than costing his team 15 yards and potentially allowing his opponent to get into the end zone.
Referee Clete Blakeman's crew (remember them from the Patriots/Panthers game?) failed to penalize Tomlin, and consequently they have been "downgraded" according to League sources. Crews are "downgraded" whenever they make an incorrect call. This same crew was staunchly defended by the NFL after the Patriots/Panthers non-pass-interference call.
Not penalizing Tomlin was obviously incorrect. How did the refs not call him for this? There's an official right there! And that official has to avoid Tomlin too!
Inadvertent or intentional, it's the responsibility of everyone on the sideline to remain well clear of the play. Had a photographer or security guard or cheerleader gotten that close to the action, they'd be removed from the field, possibly fired. Had a player on the sideline done this, they'd be penalized. Why didn't the refs call Tomlin?
Had they done so, that would have ended it. Tomlin would never have done it again. No coach would copy it. There'd be no controversy. Maybe no fine or loss of draft pick.
Once again, NFL refs made a bizarre, inexplicable decision. At least this time the NFL seems to acknowledge that they were wrong. Maybe "acknowledge" is too strong of a word. The NFL hasn't rushed to defend this crew for blatantly screwing up.