Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph apologizes for his role in helmet-swinging brawl

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fights with defensive end Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 21-7. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph has apologized for his role in Thursday night’s in-game brawl in which opponent Myles Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet and hit him in the head with it.

The violent incident toward the end of the Steelers’ 21-7 win over the host Cleveland Browns moved the NFL to suspend Garrett for at least six games and two other players for less time.

The NFL hasn’t announced a punishment for Rudolph, who tussled with Garrett on the ground — and himself appeared to pull at Garrett’s helmet — before Garrett pulled off the quarterback’s headgear and clocked him with it. But Rudolph told reporters Wednesday that he should have kept his composure.

“As for my involvement …. there’s no acceptable excuse,” the Steelers quarterback said. “The bottom line is that I should have done a better job keeping my composure in that situation, and (I) fell short of what I believe it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and a member of the NFL.

“I have no ill will towards Myles Garrett. Great respect for his ability as a player, and I know that if Myles could go back, he would handle the situation differently,” Rudolph said.

Asked if he expected the NFL to fine him, Rudolph said: “I’m sure whatever the league hands out, I’m going to comply with that.”

Garrett, who also apologized, is appealing his indefinite suspension, which the NFL said would last at least the rest of this regular season and the playoffs.

How the fight happened

The fight started with seconds left in the game, when Garrett — a defensive end and first overall pick in the 2017 draft — took Rudolph to the ground after Rudolph completed a meaningless screen pass.

They tussled on the ground, with Rudolph appearing to tug at the back of Garrett’s helmet.

Then Garrett got to his feet and pulled off Rudolph’s helmet.

Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro pushed Garrett away, but Rudolph got up and chased them. Then Garrett swung the helmet onto the former Oklahoma State quarterback’s head.

Obviously not pleased, Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey punched and kicked Garrett, who had fallen to the ground with DeCastro.

Cleveland’s Larry Ogunjobi then pushed Rudolph to the ground from behind.

Garrett, Pouncey and Ogunjobi were all ejected from the game.

Besides suspending Garrett indefinitely, the NFL on Friday suspended Pouncey for three games and Ogunjobi for one.

How Rudolph described his actions

On Wednesday, Rudolph described his role in the fight this way: “As I released the ball, I took a late shot, did not agree with the way he then took me to the ground. And my natural reaction was just to get him off from on top of me.”

“And again, I should have done a better job handling that situation,” he added.

A reporter noted that it appeared Rudolph tugged the back of Garrett’s helmet before the defensive end removed Rudolph’s own.

Rudolph’s answer: “Like I said, I thought the way he took me down late, it was basically the last play of the game, and I was just trying to get him off from on top of me.”

Garrett’s punishment could be considered, depending on how you examine it, the longest suspension levied by the NFL for a single on-field incident.

Earlier this year, Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the rest of his season — amounting to 12 regular season games and the playoffs — for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a player on September 29. But the NFL made clear that his previous suspensions and violations of unnecessary roughness rules played a factor in the length of the punishment.

Burfict was suspended twice previously for on-field incidents.

Otherwise, the longest suspension for an in-game violation was that of Albert Haynesworth, who was suspended five games in 2006 after the then-Tennessee Titan stomped on a player’s head.

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