Heading into Thursday night’s game, the playoff hopes for the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers were slim at best. Winning the game would only keep those slim hopes alive, not improve them. But thanks to the unfortunate incident between Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph, those slim playoff hopes are now dead.
With a mess like that, it would be best for the NFL to react quickly. They can’t appear soft in any way, shape, or form on someone using a helmet as a weapon—or on anything else that transpired during that debacle. If any of the players involved want to argue mitigating circumstances or plea for leniency, that is what the appeal process is for.
But it looks like the league got this right , with the glaring exception of leaving out Rudolph:
There is no defense for Myles Garrett. He is just lucky that he didn’t connect with Rudolph’s head better than he did. Had he done so, he would probably be looking at something even harsher than he already is. While he is not known for this level of violence, he has committed a few penalties and accumulated some fines already this season. They likely factored into the decision on his punishment:
Some have been critical of Baker Mayfield, which is nothing new, for his comments after the game, but Mayfield did the right thing. That type of violence can not be condoned or excused in any way.
Since the incident ended, Mason Rudolph has been busy playing the victim. In his postgame comments , he referred to Garrett’s actions as “bush-league” and “cowardly.” But his were not any better.
After he gets hit, he raises his arms and starts playing the role. But before he charged after Garrett, David DeCastro had the whole situation under control. There was no need for Rudolph to go charging in.
Rudolph fans will say that he was just reacting to the perceived late hit that Garrett laid on him. But it isn’t up to Rudolph to take matters into his own hands. That is for the refs to do and for the league to do when the refs fail.
His actions, in a way, were just as cowardly—because he is hiding behind Garrett’s and not owning them. Garrett’s initial actions—rushing the passer—were just part of a chippy game. How Rudolph reacted is not.
The Browns need to win out to have a real shot. To do that, they are going to need their defense to lead the way. In most games, they probably still will. However, without Myles Garrett and his freakish athleticism, it is hard to see the Browns defense containing Lamar Jackson when they face the Ravens again.
That loss, assuming they win every other game, will be enough to keep them out.
As for the Steelers, the offensive line is the one spot they can’t afford to lose anyone. Whether it is opening holes for James Conner (or whoever runs the ball) or giving Rudolph time, they need their best players. But with Maurkice Pouncey on the sideline for three games, their offense is going to suffer—and they will lose games.
And that’s Mason Rudolph’s fault.