The 4-0 Pittsburgh Steelers will be facing the 4-1 Cleveland Browns on Sunday, and it’s a meaningful AFC North game for both teams. But that’s not the only storyline, since it’s also the first time these teams are meeting since the infamous Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph helmet brawl.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t want to call it a revenge game, and he doesn’t anticipate any fireworks. He wants his team to stay focused on the only thing that matters: football.
#Steelers HC Mike Tomlin on seeing Myles Garrett for the first time since last year's ugly altercation: "We’re not looking for that low hanging fruit or that reality TV storyline. This is a big game here in 2020."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 13, 2020
It’s hard to deny the reality TV appeal of it all, though. Especially since Maurkice Pouncey, who had a big role in the brawl, is expected to play, and so is Garrett. Tomlin may not want brawl revenge to matter to his players, but considering how dramatic (and traumatic) that incident was, it may happen anyway.
The helmet brawl
The on-field altercation between Garrett, Rudolph and Pouncey was the wildest thing to happen during an NFL game in quite some time. In the final seconds of the Steelers-Browns game in Nov. 2019, Garrett ripped Rudolph’s helmet off his head at the end of a play. Rudolph went after Garrett, and then Garrett beat him with his own helmet. Pouncey and one other Steelers player got Garrett away from Rudolph, and then Pouncey started punching and kicking Garrett.
Pouncey was suspended for three games which was reduced to two on appeal. Garrett was given an indefinite suspension, and it was during his appeal that Garrett said Rudolph had used the N-word, which is what sparked the brawl. The NFL didn’t find any evidence to back it up and did not reduce Garrett’s suspension.
Rudolph has vehemently denied using a racial slur, and the Steelers have backed him up. Steelers players also openly wondered why Garrett waited until his appeal, which took place a week after the incident, to accuse Rudolph of using the N-word. However, several Browns players and even former GM John Dorsey backed up Garrett, saying that he told them that Rudolph used that word immediately after the brawl happened.
Rudolph isn’t starting for the Steelers anymore since Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, but bad blood likely remains between Garrett and Pouncey (and probably multiple other Steelers players). We’ll have to watch and see if that spills over into Sunday’s game.
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