As the clock hit zero on the Cleveland Browns’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night at home, no one was talking about how the Browns just won their second-consecutive game on a short week or how they beat the Steelers for the first time since 2014.
Instead, the conversation shifted to the last-second hit defensive end Myles Garrett put on Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. More specifically, the hit Garrett delivered with Rudolph’s own helmet.
In the immediate aftermath, Garrett, defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey were all ejected for their roles in the ensuing brawl: Garrett for taking off Rudolph’s helmet and swinging it at him, Ogunjobi for pushing over a helmetless Rudolph and Pouncey for kicking Garrett’s helmet while on the ground.
The day after, it was announced that all three – as well as both teams – were fined for the altercation with Garrett getting suspended indefinitely, Ogunjobi getting suspended one game and Pouncey getting three games. For attempting to rip off Garrett’s helmet, the incident that started the fight, Rudolph was simply fined and faced no suspension.
The suspensions and lengths for the three involved are perfectly fine and quite honestly, justified. What Garrett did was selfish and inexcusable. What Pouncy did was dangerous and brought back memories of all the stupid things Vontaze Burfict and Ndamukong Suh have done in the past. And what Ogunjobi did, while stupid and unnecessary, was not dangerous.
What I don’t understand, though, is why Rudolph was given just a fine. While what he and Garrett did cannot and should not be compared, it was still his decision to attempt to pull Garrett’s helmet off that started the incident. His role should have at least gotten him a game.
Regardless, to all those Browns apologists that are defending what Garrett did and saying “Football’s a tough game” or “Well Mason started it” or even getting excited about what happened by saying “Yeah the rivalry’s renewed!” could not be more in the wrong.
I don’t care who started it or what happened, there is nothing anyone can say to justify using a helmet as a weapon on the field. Garrett has been flagged and fined a lot already this season for his hits on a quarterback and this is only going to exaggerate the belief that Garrett is a dirty player, which could not be further from the truth.
He made a stupid mistake in the heat of the moment, he admitted to doing as much and is now paying the price. This one instance does not mean Garrett is a bad player or a bad person. Those swept up in the heat of the moment that wanted to get off the hottest takes and pretend to these beacons of morality will calm down and realize that, while egregious, what Garrett did is not the end of the world.
Above all else, we can’t let this take away from the great team win the Browns had over the Steelers. And when the two teams meet again Dec. 1 in Pittsburgh, both teams have to agree to be better and make sure nothing like this happens then and risk possibly marring what could be the rebirth of a great rivalry.
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