The Browns beat the Steelers for the first time in five years, but they somehow still managed to lose in the game — with one of their best players losing his cool.
What joy Cleveland got from ending an eight-game winless streak in a dominant 21-7 victory was completely ruined by third-year defensive end Myles Garrett’s vicious helmet swing to the head of Pittsburgh second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Whatever Rudolph may have said or done to agitate Garrett in the waning seconds while being dragged to the ground at he Dawg Pound is irrelevant. Garrett turning Rudolph’s helmet into a dangerous weapon against him, was “inexcusable,” as Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield told Fox’s Erin Andrews after the game.
Garrett and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who pushed Rudolph after the swing, were ejected. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was thrown out for kicking and punching Garrett in retaliation.
Rudolph called the swing a “bush league” and “cowardly move” by Garrett. Like Mayfield, he, too, is exactly right.
Garrett is bound to receive a lengthy suspension from the NFL. Nearly 17 years ago, Saints offensive lineman Kyle Turley was only fined for removing and throwing the helmet of a Jets defender. This was a far cry from that incident. Given the fact that Garrett violently attacked Rudolph, there’s a good chance Garrett might not play another game this season.
The Browns have been ripped throughout their disappointing season, which improved to only 4-6 after Thursday night’s Week 11 win, for undisciplined play. They played a dominant defensive game for four quarters vs. Pittsburgh, led by their leader, middle linebacker Joe Schobert. They had a season-high four interceptions, doubling their season total.
They still ended up being flagged eight times for 121 yards. They couldn’t just walk off the field and enjoy a convincing win, one in which they had already made a physical statement to Rudolph and the Steelers’ offensive line, and in which Mayfield and the offense turned in one of their cleanest performances of the season.
Garrett, like Mayfield and Schobert, is supposed to set an example for other Browns as they try to transition to a winning team, but the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, as freakish an athlete and well-techniqued a pass-rusher and run defender as he is, has been known to take things to the limit when he takes down players. He crossed the line Thursday.
This is the AFC North, where we’ve seen tempers flare regularly between the Steelers and the rival Bengals and Ravens in prime time. We’ve seen the dirty with Vontaze Burfict and the clean with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Steelers have had their share of both, from James Harrison to Troy Polamalu.
There has been no real rivalry with the Browns, given the Steelers’ domination of them since 2002. Just when the Browns were becoming relevant against them and possibly turning the corner, Garrett threw everything out the window by wielding that helmet.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens has gotten plenty of heat for not being able to control his team, and that’s why he’s on the hot seat in his first season. He wanted to talk after the game about what happened during the game, but now the result will never feel like a job-saving moment.
“I’m embarrassed, Myles is embarrassed,” Kitchens told reporters. “It’s not good.”
It really doesn’t get any worse. Thanks to Garrett, the Browns’ win over the Steelers will leave them with more questions than answers about their disorganization and chaos.