John Steigerwald: Steelers QB Mason Rudolph shouldn’t get off so easily in Myles Garrett fight
Has everybody calmed down?
Let’s try to take a nonhysterical look at what happened Thursday night in Cleveland. Myles Garrett of the Browns hit Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph on his helmetless head with his own helmet.
And now Garrett is suspended indefinitely, for the rest of this season at least.
Rudolph was fined but not suspended. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended three games.
Let’s go to the video tape and see what actually happened.
There are 13 seconds left in the game, and the Browns are leading 21-7. The Steelers are on their own 17-yard line, and, for some reason, they tried to gain yardage with a pass to Trey Edmunds.
Here’s something that didn’t happen, contrary to what many — if not most people — on this side of the Pennsylvania-Ohio border would have you believe: Garrett did not take a cheap shot at Rudolph. He wrapped Rudolph up with a bear hug a split second after the ball was released to Edmunds, standing a few feet away in the backfield.
Garrett didn’t drive Rudolph into the turf. He fell and pulled Rudolph on top of him, which takes us to something else that didn’t happen.
There was no flag on the play.
Garrett did not lie on top of Rudolph and prevent him from getting up. As Garrett was trying to get up, Rudolph was grabbing his helmet, apparently trying to twist it off.
Garrett got up and returned the favor and was successful in twisting off Rudolph’s helmet.
Steelers guard David DeCastro, who is 6-foot-6, 316 pounds, tried to defuse the situation and was pushing Garrett back. Steelers tackle Matt Feiler (6-6, 330) was standing by as Garrett was backing up, still holding on to Rudolph’s helmet.
As Garrett was being pushed back, Rudolph (6-4, 235) tried to get through DeCastro to attack him. As Rudolph was charging, Pouncey (6-4, 306) was coming hard behind him.
It was three on one, with two of the three weighing more than 300 pounds. That’s when Garrett lost it and bopped Rudolph on the head. Pouncey was swinging away as DeCastro was taking Garrett to the ground. Pouncey tried to kick Garrett in the head as he was pinned underneath DeCastro.
Garrett had the helmet in his hand when he was being pushed away by DeCastro and could have swung the helmet then. He didn’t. Not until Rudolph and Pouncey we’re charging him.
It was going to be the last play of the game, and something Rudolph did enraged Garrett to the point he decided to rip off Rudolph’s helmet.
Does anybody think Garrett just decided that doing so would be a good way to close a prime-time game?
It was an ugly scene, and Garrett should and will pay a steep price for what he did, but let’s take off the black-and-gold glasses and admit Rudolph threw a lot of gasoline on the fire.
And who could blame Rudolph for wanting a piece of Garrett? And is there any denying Rudolph was looking for a fight?
Commissioner Roger Goodell should take a closer look at what happened and reduce Garrett’s sentence.
In 2013, Antonio Smith of the Houston Texans ripped Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito’s helmet off and swung it at him after Incognito had poked him in the eye.
Smith was suspended for two preseason games and one regular-season game.
Michael Irvin, who said on NFL Network on Tuesday night Garrett should be suspended for the rest of the season, did some helmet swinging of his own when he was playing for the Dallas Cowboys. And it was in prime time during a Monday night game against the Giants. He was fined $12,000. No suspension.
In 2006, Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth stomped on the face of Cowboys center Andre Gurode, who was without a helmet and lying on the ground.
It was worse than what Garrett did, and Gurode needed 30 stitches.
Haynesworth was suspended five games.
If Garrett is forced to miss the rest of this season, the punishment will not have fit the crime.
Rudolph already has gotten off too easily.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.