Mike Tomlin: “I strongly disagree” with the sanction for taunting inflicted on Ray-Ray McCloud, calls for “common sense” in the arbitration rule

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One of the strengths of the NFL in officiating this season was cracking down on taunting behavior in games. The league’s efforts have been very visible throughout the season, and the source of much consternation and controversy, whether debating the rule itself or its application.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin argued for the rule; today, however, he found himself on the opposite side of the league, or at least refereeing in the game, when it comes to rule enforcement, when his wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, was reported for taunting during the third quarter.

Ben Roethlisberger just completed a 3rd and 6th pass for the fourth-year pro, who managed to beat Kansas City cornerback L’Jarius Sneed for eight. He turned to the official, and facing Sneed, waved his hand to indicate that he had been the first one down. He may or may not have said something, although it looked like it was the gesture that drew the flag.

Tomlin was asked about the taunt sanction, framed in the context of Chase Claypool’s taunt sanction a few weeks ago that briefly put him on the bench, but the head coach didn’t consider the two to be nearly comparable. “I categorically disagree with that,” he said of McCloud’s penalty. “I thought Ray-Ray was signaling the first down and he turned around to do it and the guy was right there. I think we have to use common sense.

Tomlin, of course, has been around long enough to understand that the league won’t apply “common sense” to its rules; anything that looks like a violation will be reported. There is no doubt that McCloud made a first gesture directly to Sneed’s face; Whether it was because he was doing it when Sneed suddenly appeared in front of him or otherwise, it doesn’t matter when it comes to arbitration, at least that day.

Although he gave them the first try, the game actually pushed the Chiefs’ 31-38 offense back, on a practice that eventually stalled inside the red zone. Tomlin was going to play a game on the 4th and 10th before John Leglue at left guard was flagged for a false start, after which they settled for a field goal, reducing the deficit to 30-3.

In other words, it really didn’t make any difference. But it was at least a reminder of how careful you had to be. It’s easy to imagine this foul happening at a much bigger point in a closer game.

Despite falling to 7-7-1 this season, the Steelers are still in contention – theoretically – not just for a playoff berth, but even for the division title, although the latter would require the Bengals to Cincinnati lose to the Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns. And they themselves have to beat the Baltimore Ravens and Browns.


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