In one moment, last week’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns went from another forgettable Thursday Night Football game to one of the biggest sports stories of the month.
The Browns were winning 21-7 in the fourth quarter. The game was all but over with just a few seconds left. Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett hit Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph late and took him to the ground. The encounter turned physical when Rudolph put his hands on Garrett’s helmet.
Garrett responded by ripping Rudolph’s helmet off and swinging it. Garrett made contact with Rudolph’s head, creating one of the ugliest plays in the NFL in recent memory.
Garrett is currently suspended for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. He must also apply for reinstatement for next season. However, Garrett is currently appealing the suspension.
The NFL suspended Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey for three games for kicking Garrett in the head when he was on the ground. Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi has a one-game suspension for blindsiding Rudolph during the frenzy. Rudolph received a fine as well.
The league also fined both teams $250,000.
A decisive Browns win was now completely forgotten because of what happened in one moment. Additionally, both teams are missing key players. The Steelers will definitely miss Pouncey on their offensive line as they try to stay in the AFC playoff picture down the stretch.
The Steelers face a winless Bengals team this week, while the Browns have a matchup with a tanking Dolphins squad. Yet, the headlines are still centered on what happened last week.
Apologies have come from the Browns’ owners, Garrett, Rudolph and more. A company in Cleveland started selling “Pittsburgh started it” t-shirts. It seemed like it was a requirement for current and former players and coaches to offer takes on what happened.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t take any blame for what happened last week when he was asked about it in a press conference.
#Steelers Mike Tomlin was asked how to prevent another incident, said 'you'd have to ask those guys. I don't know that we did anything to make it happen in the first place. That's why I said we didn't have anything to learn from it'
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) November 19, 2019
During Garrett’s appeals hearing on Wednesday, the defensive end claimed that Rudolph called him a racial slur, which incited the brawl. Rudolph has rejected his accusation.
In an appeal with the NFL, Browns’ DE Myles Garrett alleged that Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur prior to last week's brawl on Thursday Night Football, sources told ESPN's Josina Anderson and me, an accusation the Steelers’ QB strongly denies.https://t.co/NUQfAJdo6B
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 21, 2019
No matter how the fines and suspensions shake out, at some point the attention has to come back to the football field. There is still plenty of football left in the season. While neither team is currently in a playoff position, they’re also not out of playoff contention at this point.
The mission for both teams moving forward has to be about making this season more than just one moment.