PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph wanted to get away from Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
The way Rudolph went about it — a process that contributed to a brawl that culminated with Rudolph getting smacked in the head with his own helmet and led to Garrett getting suspended by the NFL indefinitely — is one the first-year starter regrets.
Saying “there is no acceptable excuse,” Rudolph said his behavior in the final moments of last Thursday’s 21-7 loss to the Browns fell short of the standard set by the league and the Steelers.
“The bottom line is I should have done a better job keeping my composure in that situation,” Rudolph said Wednesday while reading from a prepared statement before briefly taking questions from reporters.
Garrett and Rudolph became entangled on the next-to-last Steelers snap of Cleveland’s lopsided 21-7 victory. Rudolph flipped a short pass to running back Jaylen Samuels just before getting hit by Garrett, who twisted Rudolph to the ground as play continued downfield.
Rudolph took exception to Garrett wrapping him up, calling it “late.” Rudolph said he was trying to separate himself from Garrett — who was not flagged on the play — when he briefly grabbed the back of the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Garrett’s helmet.
“It was the last play of the game and I was just trying to get him from off on top of me,” Rudolph said.
Garrett responded by tugging at Rudolph’s facemask, eventually ripping it off and holding it high while Steelers guard David DeCastro attempted to separate them. Rudolph scrambled to his feet and gave chase in an apparent attempt to retrieve his helmet. Garrett then swung the helmet at Rudolph, connecting on the right side of Rudolph’s head. The chaos that followed included Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey punching and kicking Garrett and Rudolph getting knocked to the ground in a blind-side hit from Cleveland defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.
In addition to handing out a record suspension to Garrett, the NFL banned Pouncey for three games and ordered Ogunjobi to sit out on Sunday when the Browns host Miami. All three players are appealing. Rudolph said he has not been notified of any fine for his actions but will accept whatever punishment the league metes out.
“I have no ill will toward Myles Garrett, great respect for his ability as a player,” Rudolph said. “And I know if Myles could go back he would handle the situation differently.”
Rudolph said he “definitely didn’t say anything” to escalate the situation with Garrett, calling the ordeal “an unfortunate situation for both teams involved.” Rudolph lamented that his actions led directly to Pouncey’s retaliation against Garrett that resulted in Pittsburgh (5-5) potentially losing the seven-time Pro Bowler during a critical stretch that will go a long way to determining whether they stay in the playoff picture.
“Probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.,” Rudolph said of Pouncey. “A guy that you want on your team. He has your back. He has everybody’s back on this team. … I put him in a bad spot and we’re looking to get him back as soon as possible whenever that is.”