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Steelers’ Mike Tomlin admits club’s role in Helmetgate

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Longtime Pittsburgh head coach takes partial responsibility in melee

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

At Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference, he obviously was asked multiple questions about the incident that occurred in Thursday night’s 21-7 defeat in which Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett ended up slugging Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.

Tomlin accepted responsibility according to ESPN staff writer Brooke Pryor in the news conference.

”It was ugly. It was ugly for the game of football. I think all of us that are involved in the game, particularly at this level, want to safeguard and protect the game, its integrity. And in that instance, it was compromised, obviously, with an unfortunate incident.”

After last Thursday’s loss, Tomlin had refused to answer any questions regarding the incident, but today opened up a bit. He did say that the team takes responsibility for its role.

”None of us want those incidents to transpire. It did. We were a part of it. We accept responsibility for our actions within it.”

Yesterday and today, the appeal process of the suspensions for all three players, Garrett, Browns’ defensive tackle Larry Ojunjobi and Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, was heard with a ruling expected Wednesday. Pouncey received three games, Ojunjobi one while Garrett received the remainder of this season plus the possibility of some games next year.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
Quarterback Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers goes after defensive end Myles Garrett #95 after his helmet is ripped off (prior to the helmet clubbing)
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Tomlin was vague in most of his responses to Helmetgate questions, more than likely because the appellate process is ongoing. Garrett struck the Steelers’ quarterback with his own helmet was the highlight of the fight that occurred with just eight seconds left in the game.

The Browns’ win completed a two-game win streak while the Steelers had previously won four straight.

Tomlin, however, fell short on any admission on what actually started the fight. One question that was asked was if his team could learn anything from what happened at the end of the Browns game. His response was simply, “No.” When the next question was “Why?” Tomlin responded with:

”Because I don’t know if we did anything to make it happen in the first place.”

Um, come again?

It has been well-documented here on DBN on what occurred with the entire situation. The question was raised, “Why did the usually mild-mannered Garrett suddenly try to rip Rudolph’s helmet off?” That very act made zero sense and so the film from the incident was taken frame-by-frame to see what actually occurred and what set Garrett off into this mad man.

The results were that Rudolph was apparently upset that Garrett took him to the ground despite the thrown ball had already left his hand. However, there wasn’t any penalty flag flown for late hit with two referees standing behind the play the entire time. Rudolph then tried to rip Garrett’s helmet off in a backwards motion and then attempted to twist the defensive lineman’s head in an unnatural sideways motion to which half of Garrett’s head was exposed.

Mason Rudolph starts to twist Garrett’s helmet

Next, as Garrett began to stand while holding Rudolph’s facemask, the quarterback kicked Garrett and then placed his cleat into Garrett’s groin area and at one point fully extended his leg. Next, after Garrett ripped the quarterback’s helmet completely off, Rudolph went on the attack despite Garrett backpedaling. The end result was that Garrett swung the helmet and connected onto Rudolph’s head.

Tomlin made no mention that Rudolph started the incident or the manner in which competitive men react when another player cleats their private areas on purpose.

As far as the NFL rule book, it has a clause that specifically addresses one player striking another with a helmet. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 16 specifies: USE OF HELMET AS A WEAPON. A player may not use a helmet that is no longer worn by anyone as a weapon to strike, swing at, or throw at an opponent. PENALTY: For illegal use of a helmet as a weapon: Loss of 15 yards and automatic disqualification. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.

But just about everyone who saw, or has seen this incident, has been clued into from the point Garrett took Rudolph’s helmet off. The reason for the extraction hasn’t been the focal point of any conversation to date.

Except on ESPN’s show First Take. One of the show’s hosts, Max Kellerman, had this to say on-air about Rudolph’s involvement in the incident:

“Obviously there needs to be a suspension, because Mason Rudolph needs to be suspended for at least a game. Start with that. He…was….the one who started the fight, tried to take Myles Garrett’s helmet off. He got underneath and tried to twist it off. Then Garrett’s like, okay, that is what we’re doing? Okay, I’m gonna take your helmet off. Then when Myles Garrett is being restrained by two of Mason Rudolph’s teammates, without his helmet, Rudolph charges Myles Garrett.”

Then as the show expanded on the subject among his co-hosts, Kellerman explained:

“I would also say, when you look at swinging at a guy’s unprotected head with a helmet, a two-four game penalty I would understand. There has been a total hysterical reaction to this. And I think part of it is culture. People are talking about Myles Garrett the rest of the season, kicking him out of the league, send him to jail. Calm down. In a fight, if one person escalates, and the other person retaliates, even if the retaliation is considered disproportional, we don’t just look at the disproportional retaliation. Everyone calm down.”

The NFL is expected to levy fines to other players involved in the fracas with Rudolph a main character mentioned.