This is not the first time that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns have played one another since ‘the incident’. They played each other again just weeks after Browns edge defender Myles Garrett used Mason Rudolph’s own helmet as a weapon against him, smashing it over his head, toward the end of a blowout victory for the hosting Cleveland team.
Understandably, tensions were at their highest in that moment, and not only did Myles Garrett receive an indefinite suspension for the role he played, but Larry Ogunjobi and Maurkice Pouncey also received short suspensions, and more than a dozen players—including Rudolph—were fined as a result of the roles that they played, which largely consisted of clearing the bench area.
Heyward in particular was livid in the wake of that game, having some harsh comments for Garrett’s actions, but for the Steelers at least, on the surface, they have made it all water under the bridge. The fourth-year player was disciplined for his actions, and that’s all you can expect.
“Honestly, I’m not angry”, Heyward told reporters as the Steelers prepare to face Garrett for the first time since that incident. “I look at last year’s tape, both home and away, and I see what they did well and what we did well. All that other outside noise and what did and didn’t transpire doesn’t really matter to me. We’ve got to go out there and win a game and do what we can against a good team”.
This is, of course, much bigger than one swing of the helmet. The Steelers and Browns both bring four-win records into a week-six matchup, and do so in a division in which three different teams all have four wins through five games or fewer. There’s a lot at stake, and nobody can afford to be sidetracked by the sideshow.
Even though the Browns haven’t been fully successful in moving on without incitement—not just Kareem Hunt’s ill-advised “this one’s for Myles” remark yesterday, but also Garrett repeatedly digging up his prior accusations over the course of the offseason—I think it’s fair to say that the focus on Sunday will be what’s happening within the game.
This is the most important, evenly-matched game that the Steelers and Browns have had in a long time—perhaps decades. Cleveland has, to put it gently, rarely been good, let alone this good, though they are not without their weaknesses.
The point is, of course, that anybody entering this game with a focus on anything other than football and how to beat their opponent is doing themselves and their team a big disservice, considering the stakes at hand. What Garrett did last year was terrible and always will be. But there’s a job to be done. It’s time to play a game.