The Cleveland Browns kept fighting long after their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers had been decided Thursday night. And the skirmish will likely will cost them their best defensive player.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and hit him in the head with it in the final seconds of the Browns’ 21-7 win. That sparked a wild brawl between the rivals.
Garrett faces a likely suspension for his actions and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will probablyl be disciplined for kicking Garrett in the head.
Players from both sidelines spilled on the field during the melee, which began after Garrett wrestled Rudolph to the ground well after he completed a short pass on a meaningless play. Garrett, Pouncey and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi were ejected.
Rudolph got his hand on Garrett’s helmet first as the players grappled on the ground, but Garrett escalated things when he got back on his feet. He yanked Rudolph’s helmet off and swung wildly, hitting the quarterback on the top of the head. Rudolph threw his arms in the air in disbelief after the impact, and Pouncey retaliated by punching and kicking Garrett.
“The reality is he’s going to get suspended, we don’t know how long, and that’s going to hurt our team,” Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said immediately after the game.
Fox commentator Troy Aikman called Garrett’s actions “barbaric.”
Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was shown replays of the brawl on the NFL Network set. “It’s ugly,” Beckham said. “It’s not something we want in the NFL.”
Rudolph, a second-year player who took over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2, has already missed time this season with a concussion after he was knocked unconscious by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas.
“Myles is very upset about it. He’s got to maintain his composure,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said.
Before the ugly ending, Mayfield threw two touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard plunge as Cleveland held on to defeat the banged-up Steelers for just the fourth time in 10 years and improved to 2-0 in the AFC North for the first time.
The Browns (4-6) have won two in a row after dropping four straight, a skid that put first-year coach Freddie Kitchens’ job in jeopardy.
But Mayfield’s 8-yard TD pass to undrafted rookie tight end Stephen Carlson with 5:25 left helped clinch a rare win over the rival Steelers. And a softer upcoming schedule has eased the pressure on Kitchens and given the Browns some hope they can end the NFL’s longest playoff drought.
The loss was especially damaging to the Steelers (5-5).
Pittsburgh lost its top two playmakers as running back James Conner (shoulder) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) suffered injuries in the second quarter and didn’t return.
Without them, Rudolph didn’t have enough help and threw four interceptions.
In the third quarter, Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson got concussed from a vicious hit by Browns safety Damarious Randall, who was ejected.
Browns running back Nick Chubb had 92 yards and went over 1,000 this season.
Despite the injuries, the Steelers were within 14-7 entering the fourth quarter after Rudolph connected with Jaylen Samuels for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
The score was set up by Cleveland’s secondary, which was called for three penalties – one of them Randall’s ugly hit, totaling 58 yards on the scoring drive.
But the Browns were able to put it away late after linebacker Joe Schobert intercepted Rudolph for the second time and returned it to Pittsburgh’s 9.
On third down, Mayfield, who hasn’t thrown an interception in three games, bought time in the pocket and delivered a strike to Carlson, who jumped and reached around Steelers linebacker Mark Barron to haul in the TD pass – his first NFL reception.
The Browns have been wrapped up in drama all season, and that was the case again Thursday as the team released wide receiver Antonio Callaway just hours before kickoff.
Callaway, who served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy earlier this season, was benched by Kitchens for arriving late to Sunday’s game against Buffalo.