Steelers teammates defend Mason Rudolph against Myles Garrett’s allegation of racial slur
Mason Rudolph’s teammates again rushed to his defense Thursday, a week after Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett clubbed him with his own helmet.
This time, the Pittsburgh Steelers defended their quarterback after Garrett reportedly accused Rudolph of using a racial slur when a brawl broke out between the two teams at the end of their Nov. 14 game.
ESPN, citing unidentified sources, reported that Garrett made the accusation about Rudolph during his appeal of an indefinite suspension he received from the NFL. Garrett was suspended for yanking off Rudolph’s helmet and then swinging it at the Steelers quarterback, hitting him in the head.
Rudolph was not suspended, but he is expected to be fined for his role in the fight with Garrett.
Right tackle Matt Feiler and right guard David DeCastro tried to pull Garrett off Rudolph while they tussled on the ground.
“He didn’t say anything,” Feiler said. “There’s no way Mason would say anything like that. He’s not that kind of guy.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league investigated Garrett’s alleged claim.
“We looked into it and found no such evidence,” McCarthy said in a statement to the Tribune-Review.
NFL appeals officer James Thrash upheld Garrett’s indefinite suspension Thursday. The NFL’s other appeals officer, Derrick Brooks, reduced Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey’s three-game suspension to two games.
Rudolph was scheduled to speak with reporters after practice Thursday, but the interview session was canceled when Garrett’s accusations were relayed to players while they were still on the practice field.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward said Rudolph was “distraught” by the report. Heyward said he and Rudolph spoke before practice after the quarterback became aware that Garrett reportedly used the racial slur in his appeal hearing.
“For Mason, I know he’s not going to talk about it because he’s being villainized by it,” Heyward said. “He said, ‘I’m going to be labeled as that.’ And I just don’t think that’s right. That’s my teammate and I’m going to fight for him, and do what’s best for him.
“The kid made a bad mistake, but he never crossed the line when you’re talking about racial slurs.”
The Steelers and Rudolph’s agent, Timothy Younger, issued statements that strongly denied the ESPN report.
Younger, who said after the incident that his agency was considering legal action against Garrett, said the accusation was a “desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension.”
“This is a lie,” Younger said in his statement. “This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.
“The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity, which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful.”
Heyward was among dozens of players on the field during the melee that ensued after the fight, and he tried to confront Garrett but was held back by teammates.
Heyward questioned the timing of Garrett’s accusations, which came seven days after the game was played.
“I think we’ve just got to own up to mistakes as men,” he said. “Move the hell on. For that to be part of the appeal is stupid to me because that doesn’t get you out of what you did. He’s got to move forward, and he’s got to own up to his actions.”
Rudolph addressed the media Wednesday, reading from prepared notes and answering a few questions. When he was asked if he said anything to Garrett that inflamed the incident, Rudolph was adamant that he did not.
“I definitely didn’t say anything that escalated it,” Rudolph said, “but I have to do a better job of keeping my composure.”
That composure has been tested this week with all of the headlines the incident has generated for Rudolph and the Steelers. The question is whether Garrett’s accusation will be a distraction for Rudolph when the Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Rudolph is coming off his worst NFL start – he threw four interceptions and had a 36.3 passer rating against the Browns.
“I just put my arm around him and try to keep it to football,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said. “That’s what it is. We’ve got practice and things like that. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to get better play at the position.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .