The end of Thursday’s game between the Steelers and Browns was absolute mayhem. There was a brawl that had players on both teams ejected and resulted in three suspensions. But it was more than that because of the unprecedented action that started the fight.
With five seconds on the clock, and the Browns up, 21-7, Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett ripped the helmet off of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph at the end of a play. He then used that helmet as a blunt weapon. He swung it at Rudolph’s head, connected, and started a bench-clearing brawl near the end zone.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey punched and kicked a downed Garrett in retaliation. He was joined by his fellow offensive linemen in striking Garrett after he was wrestled to the ground. Then both teams got involved and it got even messier:
Not that it excuses anything, but Garrett’s anger can likely be attributed to Rudolph apparently trying to pull off his helmet prior to the brawl:
What is Mason Rudolph trying to accomplish with this, though? pic.twitter.com/uQGupFrODm
— Sports Nation Ohio (@SN_Ohio) November 15, 2019
What the Browns said after the game
Speaking to Erin Andrews after the game, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was quick to condemn the whole thing.
“I didn’t see why it started, but it’s inexcusable,” Mayfield said. “I don’t care, rivalry or not, we can’t do that. That’s kind of the history of what’s been going on here — hurting yourself — and that’s just endangering the other team. It’s inexcusable. [Garrett] knows that. I hope he does now. It’s tough.”
Mayfield was blunt when saying what it means for Garrett and the Browns going forward.
“The reality is, he’s going to get suspended. We don’t know how long, and that hurts our team. We can’t do that. We can’t continue to hurt this team.”
Baker Mayfield to Erin Andrews after the game: “It’s inexcusable. Rivalry or not, we can’t do that. That’s endangering the other team. That’s inexcusable. The reality is, he’s going to get suspended. It’s inexcusable.”pic.twitter.com/QfaTUxrhmR
— Will Gavin (@WillGav) November 15, 2019
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens was clearly upset in the postgame press conference.
“It’s not who we want to be at the end of the game,” Kitchens said of the incident. “It’s not who Myles wants to be. That’s not who we’re going to be. You have to be able to maintain your composure in times like that and in no circumstance do we want anything to do with anything like that. I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good. He understands what he did. He understands it’s totally unacceptable.”
Kitchens was asked if he expected Garrett to be suspended, but he’s just as shocked as everyone else.
“I’ve never seen that in my life,” he said, “So we’ll wait and see. I can’t answer that.”
Garrett told reporters that he had “no clue” if the Week 11 game was the last time he’d take the field this season.
“I lost my cool, and I regret it,” Garrett said. “I appreciate when my team had my back, but it should have never got to that point.
“What I did was foolish and I shouldn’t allow myself to slip like that.”
He also said he wasn’t going to comment on if Rudolph said anything that sparked his reaction.
What the Steelers said after the game
“I thought it was pretty cowardly, pretty bush league,” Rudolph told reporters. He added that he wasn’t hurt and was “good to go.”
“I know it’s bush league, and I know it’s a total coward move on his part.”
—Mason Rudolph on Myles Garrett pic.twitter.com/OwRQcKhEhm
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 15, 2019
Pouncey was asked if Garrett should be suspended.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Pouncey said. “We’ll see how serious the NFL is about their players.”
He was also asked if he had ever been that angry before and responded, “I blacked out. I don’t even remember it really.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t say much afterward.
“I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. You guys saw what happened at the end.”
What punishments were handed down?
The helmet connected with the crown of Rudolph’s head, but he stayed in the game for the final snap. That’s irrelevant when it comes to punishment and the public’s judgment — the intent behind swinging what is effectively a lethal weapon at the exposed head of another player is damning for Garrett.
Garrett received an indefinite suspension from the NFL that will keep him out for, at minimum, the rest of the 2019 season and any possible postseason appearance for the Browns. Pouncey received a three-game suspension and Ogunjobi a one-game suspension. All three punishments are subject to appeal:
Steelers, Browns organizations each fined $250,000.
Browns’ Garrett, Ogunjobi & Steelers’ Pouncey suspended. pic.twitter.com/HJ4Qnc4xsY
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) November 15, 2019
After the suspension was announced, Garrett issued an apology:
Statement from Myles Garrett: pic.twitter.com/txVA970CmW
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 15, 2019
That said, Garrett will appeal the suspension Wednesday. Further, he will appeal it based on the fact that the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t allow for indefinite suspension for on-field acts, per Ian Rapoport. In other words, Garrett wants a finite number while at the same time will argue for a reduction.
“We sincerely apologize to Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a separate statement. ”Myles Garrett has been a good teammate and member of our organization and community for the last three years but his actions last night were completely unacceptable. We understand the consequences from the league for his actions.”
“As an organization, we are disappointed with what occurred last night near the end of our game against the Cleveland Browns. The actions of the players involved were not something that should be part of any football game.”
This was an absolute disaster, and we’ll surely have plenty of follow-up information from both teams and the league office.