Cleveland, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – In the span of mere moments what was supposed to be an exhilarating night for the Browns and their fans was stolen by an act of madness.
This franchise, mired in utter failure for two decades and embarrassed regularly by the Steelers, now bears the embarrassment of one of the ugliest incidents in NFL history.
“I am embarrassed,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said. “Myles is embarrassed. It is not good. He understands what he did, he understands it is totally unacceptable, and we have to get through it.”
No one will be talking about Cleveland’s first win over Pittsburgh since 2014 or the fact this is the first time ever they beat the Steelers and Ravens in the same year or the four interceptions of Mason Rudolph – two by linebacker Joe Schobert – or Nick Chubb hitting 1,000 yards faster than any Brown since Jim Brown.
“We have five seconds to go in a game. That cannot happen,” Kitchens said. “We have five seconds to go in a game – the biggest game that this team has won… Never beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same year since 1999, and then we have to talk about this.”
Myles Garrett will never live down ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and using it as a weapon to strike Rudolph squarely on the top of his head.
“I made a mistake,” Garrett said. “I lost my cool, and it’s going to come back to hurt our team.”
The Browns’ defensive end likely faces a hefty fine and a lengthy suspension from the league office.
His season could even be over.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been in this situation and I’ve really never seen any suspension,” Garrett said. “I’ve never really looked into it, so I wouldn’t know what they’re going to do.”
Rudolph isn’t innocent either.
The Steelers quarterback clearly attempted to rip Garrett’s helmet off while on the ground. He used his right foot to shove Garrett off him while Garrett grasped his facemask. That foot landed inside Garrett’s upper thigh before Garrett tore Rudolph’s helmet off and clobbered him in the head with it.
“I thought it was cowardly and bush league,” Rudolph said.
Perhaps Rudolph was angered by Garrett hitting him late and taking him to the ground.
“I got sacked, we exchanged some words, he kept keeping on and one thing led to another,” Rudolph said.
None of it justifies Garrett’s actions.
“It is inexcusable,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He knows that. There is no other way around it. He is going to own up to it. He is going to handle it. This locker room is going to have to come together because this is going to be a soap opera on the outside much like the media has portrayed us to be from the whole season.”
It’s going to take a lot of time for Garrett to repair his now stained reputation. He’ll likely be panted a dirty player.
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. knows the feeling of being labeled.
“It won’t ever be forgotten but it’ll be in the back burner at some point, just not right now,” Beckham said. “You know it’s going to be talked about for weeks, offseason. It’ll be talked about, for him, going into next season. I know. I’m used to seeing it.
“Myles can’t put us in a position like that.”
The images of Garrett swinging that helmet and delivering a direct shot to Rudolph’s head are unforgettable, and frightening.
“Maybe when he took my helmet off and used it as a weapon,” Rudolph said when asked when the line got crossed.
Garrett should feel fortunate Rudolph didn’t suffer serious injury.
Garrett isn’t the only Brown that will be facing discipline.
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi shoved Rudolph from behind as things appeared to begin to calm down.
“I saw my teammate getting jumped on and I went over to go help him out,” Ogunjobi said. “I am not a dirty player and I am not trying to hurt anybody. I feel like if it was you and your teammate in that situation you would do the same thing. I will probably get a suspension for it, but at the same time if someone is going to come at my teammate, that’s my brother.”
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was the lone Steeler ejected in the melee, went after Garrett, landing at least one kick while trying to deliver a few more to Garrett’s helmet as Steelers right guard David DeCastro laid on top of Garrett.
Pouncey wants Garrett banned for the rest of the season.
“Absolutely. 100%,” Pouncey said. “We will see how serious the NFL is about their players.”
As for his own punishment, Pouncey will take whatever the league dishes out.
“I mean, at this point who cares?” Pouncey said. “My man Rudolph got hit in the head with a helmet. So I will accept whatever penalty it is.”
Lost in the violence of the final eight seconds is the fact that safety Damarious Randall was ejected for delivering a violent helmet-to-helmet shot on Diontae Johnson that left the Steelers receiver with blood flowing from his ear.
Randall could be suspended too.
What should’ve been a triumphant night in Cleveland was ruined.