A lot of things about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season have been what one might describe as ‘ugly’, in one sense or another. They have had significant injuries to significant players, crucial mistakes at the worst moments, and that’s not even going back to the extensive off-field drama of the offseason.
None of that was quite as ugly as the way the end of the Steelers’ game against the Cleveland Browns transpired on Thursday night, to the extent that it was the only word that head coach Mike Tomlin could conjure in discussing in in his first lengthy remarks on the topic since it occurred.
I’m sure I don’t need to summarize exactly what happened at this point, but the focal point of the altercation was when Browns defender Myles Garrett struck quarterback Mason Rudolph on the head with his own helmet. Rudolph was fortunately not seriously injured, as it could have been a lot worse. The league handed down an indefinite suspension for the third-year edge defender.
“It was ugly for the game of football”, Tomlin said in discussing the sequence. “I think all of us that were involved in the game, particularly at this level, want to safeguard and protect the game, its integrity, and in that instance, it was compromised obviously with the unfortunate incident”.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Tomlin is a member of the Competition Committee and so does have broader responsibilities, at least in the offseason, that extend beyond the Steelers, as he plays a role in making rules and determining which are put up for votes.
“None of us want those things to transpire. It did. We were a part of it”, he added. “We accept responsibility for our actions within it. I won’t have a lot to say in great detail regarding it. We have some people going through appeals and so forth, and I don’t want to jeopardize that in any way”.
The two Steelers players chiefly involved in the incident were Maurkice Pouncey and Rudolph himself. Rudolph attempted to pull off Garrett’s helmet after he was illegally tackled. After Garrett ripped his helmet off instead, he charged up to the defender, prolonging the exchange, which prompted the assault.
Pouncey responded by going after Garrett, throwing several punches and ultimately a kick while he was on the ground. Rudolph is anticipated to receive one or more fines; Pouncey was suspended for three games, and had his appeal heard yesterday.
Tomlin did add that another reason he didn’t want to talk about the incident much after the game is because he didn’t want to deflect attention away from the fact that they lost the game, and lost it in ways that very much had nothing to do with that incident, which game in a 14-point game with under 15 seconds to play deep in his own end on third and 29.