I have a question: How much do people hate the Pittsburgh Steelers?
I’m only asking because I spent an entire offseason listening to national NFL reporters, analysts, pundits and former players defend the actions of former Steelers and (shocker) NFL receiver Antonio Brown’s transgressions that saw him burn every bridge on the way out of Pittsburgh.
Regardless of all the things Brown may have done or said, as far as many were concerned, the general sentiment was, “But what role did Ben Roethlisberger have in all of this?” Others looked at things with a broader scope, but they still tried to blame the team’s “toxic” work environment for Brown going, you know, crazy.
Speaking of crazy, all kinds of that took place on Thursday night, when a brawl broke out between Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett in the literal last seconds of Cleveland’s 21-7 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Rudolph took exception to Garrett’s rather unsportsmanlike treatment of his person when the latter threw the former to the ground on a little pass play that came at a point in the game where the latter’s team had no actual shot of losing.
Rudolph did spark this brawl by grabbing Garrett’s facemask and trying to engage him in a fight. Garrett, being the bigger of the two men, easily got the physical upper-hand, even while being pushed backwards by guard David DeCastro, who, like any good teammate, came to the rescue of his quarterback.
This little scrum, the kind we’ve witnessed millions of times throughout the history of the NFL, would have ended fairly quickly. Unfortunately, Garrett took things further than few football players ever have by not only yanking Rudolph’s helmet off, but by using said helmet as a weapon and bashing Rudolph over the head with it.
This, of course, made everything worse, as center Maurkice Pouncey, who never has a problem coming to the rescue of a teammate, didn’t just push Garrett back. Nope, instead, he helped shove him to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him.
Yes, it was an ugly and alarming scene, one that eventually led to several fines and suspensions—including an indefinite one for Garrett through at least the end of this season.
You would think public opinion would be 100 percent on Rudolph’s side—he’s not the first quarterback to start a fight with a defensive player he thought went a little too far in his efforts to sack him—but you would be wrong.
Not in 2019. Not when people have a stronger need than ever to choose sides in just about every debate.
Take ESPN reporter Josina Anderson, who Tweeted: “I would bet Myles Garrett will say he heard Mason Rudolph call him something egregious. Never seen Garrett act like that, ever.”
Anderson ultimately deleted the Tweet, but it’s easy to see what she was trying to imply.
Then there’s James Rapien, a reporter at 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, who Tweeted: “Myles Garrett is going to get suspended and rightfully so, but Mason Rudolph jumping up, getting in Garrett’s face and then throwing his hands up like he’s innocent is hilarious.”
I realize this is coming from a Cleveland reporter, but come on, man.
And, finally, here’s a Tweet from Bleacher Report’s Ian Kenyon: “What happens with Mason Rudolph? He got a helmet to the head, but he was down there fighting and trying to take off Garrett’s helmet first? Feels like at least a game, right?”
Maybe I’m just biased because I’m a Steelers fan, but I can’t believe anyone would even try to justify what Garrett did.
It’s pretty clear which player was in the wrong here--to reiterate, the NFL handed Garrett (not Rudolph) a rather lengthy suspension--so why look for a way to blame the player who was victimized? Why try to justify it by saying Rudolph grabbed Garrett’s facemask first? Why push a false narrative that Rudolph tried to kick Garrett in the groin or that he called him a racial slur?
Again, fights like this happen all the time in football. They happen during games. They even happen between teammates in practice and at training camp. But not since 1982, when Lyle Alzado grabbed the helmet off of the head of a Jets offensive lineman and threw it at him, has a player tried to do what Garrett did on Thursday night. They even made a rule after Alzado did what he did, which, as former NFL linebacker Matt Millen states in the video linked in this paragraph, prohibits an NFL player from using a helmet as a weapon.
So, again, why the need to try and justify what Garrett did, when he clearly stepped way over the line? Why try and defend Garrett’s actions, ones considered so egregious, few had a problem with Pouncey acting so violently in retaliation (even if he did get suspended for three games)?
Why try to come up with a reason? To quote the comedian Chris Rock: “Whatever happened to crazy? You can’t be crazy no more?”
This isn’t to say Garrett is crazy, but he clearly went crazy for a second or two and responded to a situation in a way that very few players ever have in the history of the NFL. And, in doing so, he jeopardized the health and safety of another human being.
Therefore, to anyone who is trying to defend Myles Garrett for his actions against Mason Rudolph, to quote Melvin Udall from the movie, As Good As It Gets: “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”