Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph somehow emerged from the incident with a mere fine from Thursday night’s embarrassing brawl.
The biggest storyline from the Cleveland Browns 21-7 win at home over the Pittsburgh Steelers should have been their dominant defensive performance in a must-win game against their biggest rivals.
But instead of praising the Browns defense for carrying the team to a second straight victor over a playoff-caliber team, NFL fans are busy analyzing the fallout of a game-ending brawl.
After being sacked by Browns star edge rusher Myles Garrett, Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph grabbed at Garrett’s helmet and appeared to hit him in the groin. Garrett ripped Rudolph’s helmet off in response and when Rudolph furiously ran at him, Garrett hit the quarterback in the head with the bottom of the helmet.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey got involved, rushing to protect his quarterback by throwing four punches at Garrett before kicking the defensive end when he was down. As if that weren’t enough, Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi shoved Rudolph from behind for good measure.
Garrett has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for hitting Rudolph in the head with a helmet, as that could have led to a far uglier outcome than it did. Meanwhile, Pouncey was suspended for three games and Ogunjobi for one.
The NFL rarely suspends players for games due to incidents on the field unless if they are egregious or come from repeat offenders, such as Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict. But the NFL wanted to send a strong message to all the players involved in this gross brawl that completely overshadowed the game itself.
Well, they sent a message to everyone involved in the brawl except for the player who started it.
What Garrett did was unacceptable. Hitting someone in the head with a helmet is extremely dangerous, and while it was a departure from Garrett’s normal disposition that occurred in the heat of the moment, he needed to be punished.
Yet Rudolph’s actions need to be reprimanded at least as strongly as Pouncey’s and Ogunjobi’s. The argument can be made that Pouncey was acting in defense of his quarterback, while Ogunjobi’s shove hardly seems to be worth a suspension.
Despite this, Rudolph, who put everyone at risk by needlessly grabbing at Garrett’s helmet after absorbing a sack with eight seconds left of a 21-7 loss, walks away with only a fine.
Rudolph should have been suspended for instigating this ugly brawl. He went after Garrett first and escalated the situation by running at Garrett after the defender retaliated to the initial attack.
The NFL receives criticism for going overboard with protecting its quarterbacks, including an excessive number of roughing the passer calls. By not giving Rudolph a suspension at least on par with Pouncey’s, the NFL is once again showing that they don’t value all their players on an equal plane.
Rudolph got a pass for his own atrocious behavior. After throwing four interceptions and single-handedly holding his team back, Rudolph came across like an aggressive sore loser and nothing like a leader at quarterback for the Steelers.
While we should be happy that nobody was seriously hurt — especially Rudolph after he absorbed a helmet shot to the head — there should be concern about the NFL’s inability to levy fair and consistent punishments.