Mike Tomlin is firing back in the wake of an ESPN Outside the Lines interview where Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett doubled-down on an accusation that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur.
The Steelers head coach joined Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s First Take Monday to share his thoughts on the situation, saying that the organization is “hacked off” over the treatment of the explosive allegation that Rudolph called Garrett a “stupid N-word,” sparking the now infamous Week 11 brawl.
“To be quite honest with you, we were hacked off with what we saw this weekend, not specifically from Myles Garrett,” Tomlin told Smith. “He’s been in the lane that he’s in, but what was displayed by ESPN and that panel, the way that the situation was presented I don’t think was fair to Mason Rudolph, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Smith had said previously on First Take that he believed Garrett’s suspension for hitting Rudolph with a helmet should have lasted longer.
“I think he should have been suspended at least of the season opener. You go into the offseason and then everybody forget,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take. “If you’re the NFL and you’re about sending a message as a deterrent. You don’t sit up there and let this season start with an entirely clean slate. At least one more game, the season opener, where you remind everybody this is why he’s gone.”
Myles Garrett’s Interview Reignites Controversy
Garrett has been apologetic about the incident, but has been firm on his allegation of the racial slur, despite NFL officials saying they found no evidence. In the Outside the Lines interview, Garrett alleged that there is a cover up going on with the on-field audio that would prove his case.
“I know something was said,” Garrett said in the OTL interview. “Now whether the NFL wants to acknowledge it, that’s up to them. But I don’t want to make it a racial thing, honestly. It’s over with for me. And I’m pretty sure it’s over with for Mason. So we just wanna move past and keep on playing football.”
After Garrett’s interview, the NFL responded, saying, “no player on either team came forward to say they heard (Rudolph) say it on the field.”
Tomlin called the thought that there was some sort of cover-up going on between the Steelers and the NFL “laughable.”
“Anybody that knows this organization knows what it stands for, understands how the Rooney Family gets down from a business standpoint, that’s laughable,” Tomlin said. “We would not participate in the covering up of such issues, and we would obviously do what was appropriate in terms of dealing with those circumstances.
“It was a thorough investigation done by us and the National Football League,” Tomlin added. “I don’t think that that was accurately represented in that [Outside the Lines] piece. These accusations are serious, not only in terms of Mason Rudolph’s character, but in terms of his professional pursuits. Nobody on that field as a member of the Cleveland Browns or Pittsburgh Steelers corroborated what was said by Myles Garrett.”
Rudolph has called the allegations a “bold-faced lie” and a “reckless attempt to assassinate my character.” His agent and attorney, Tim Younger, tweeted that the interview exposed Garrett to legal liability.
Tomlin vehemently defended his QB.
“It’s been a lot of negativity around Mason Rudolph,” Tomlin said. “He got fined $50,000 for essentially getting beat up. His reputation has been tarnished because of the allegations, none of which was founded. He was a quarterback in the losing circumstances at the end of a football game. Obviously he was an active participant in the altercation, but a lot of the things that have gone on beyond that, I struggle with.”
While Tomlin wouldn’t blame Rudolph for wanting to defend himself from the allegations through a legal case, the Steelers skipper made it quite obvious that he just wants this situation to go away.
“I think it’s probably best that we all shut up and move on,’’ he said. “But I had that attitude months ago and it hadn’t transpired, so I would expect him to do what was appropriate in terms of protecting his name and reputation and I would do so aggressively.’’
Browns Welcoming Back Myles Garrett With Open Arms
Garrett — the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft — missed the Browns final six games of the season and his actions cost him more than $1 million in missed paychecks and fines.
Garrett was on pace for a Pro Bowl season before his suspension, amassing 10 sacks. He was also set to obliterate the franchise’s single-season sack record (Reggie Camp, 14).
The Browns have supported Garrett every step of the way during the turbulent time. Team owner Dee Haslam wore a hat with Garrett’s number in a show of support shortly after the suspension was announced and new general manager Andrew Berry said in a statement that the team was looking forward to welcoming him back.
“We welcome Myles back to our organization with open arms,” Berry said. “We know he is grateful to be reinstated, eager to put the past behind him and continue to evolve and grow as a leader. We look forward to having his strong positive presence back as a teammate, player and person in our community.”