Wake-up caw: NFL acknowledges mistake

In comments that should surprise no one, the NFL's head of officiating said Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin should've been penalized for stepping onto the field during Jacoby Jones' kickoff return.

"Any time a player or a coach from the sideline is in this white area, that's a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct," NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on the NFL Network, via The Baltimore Sun. "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."

The fact that Tomlin wasn't penalized was just as surprising as the Steelers coach being close to the field of play. Jones saw Tomlin in his way as he ran along the sideline, and it's a head-scratcher that the official trailing behind didn't see the same thing.

The NFL may announce Tomlin's punishment, which is expected to be a hefty fine, as early as Wednesday.

Here's the rest of your wake-up caw…

  • Safety Matt Elam, the Ravens' first-round pick this year, has struggled in coverage and broken up just two passes in 12 games. "Elam has a lot on his plate as a rookie and he’s seemingly a better fit at strong safety rather than free safety, which he’s playing now out of necessity," The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "However, you can bet that quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady will challenge Elam and he’s going to need to stand up to the test."

  • The biggest threat to the Ravens in the wild-card race is Pittsburgh, according to John Eisenberg of the team's official website. "The Steelers are playing good football, having won five of their last eight," Eisenberg wrote. "They have the best quarterback among the other contenders. Their schedule is relatively easy. Even though they’re a game behind the Ravens, they could easily win out to finish 9-7. If I’m the Ravens, I’m keeping my eyes on them as this plays out."

  • Clifton Brown of Comcast SportsNet believes it's a long shot for the Ravens to win the AFC North. Right now, Baltimore is two games behind Cincinnati with four games left. "Even if the Bengals win just one of the next three, they will be 9-6 heading into Week 17. That’s another reason why the Ravens need to keep winning," Brown wrote. "Right now, the Bengals don’t seem to be feeling the pressure. They remain in the division driver’s seat, while the Ravens still look like a wild card team at best."