Mike Tomlin: Forget ‘Reality TV’ Storyline, Browns-Steelers is a ‘Big Game’


Jason Miller/Getty Images Mason Rudolph fights with Myles Garrett during the Steelers-Browns game on November 14, 2019.

On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met with the media in advance of this weekend’s showdown with the Cleveland Browns.

During the proceedings, ESPN’s Brooke Pryor noted that this weekend’s game will be the first time his team will be on the same field with Myles Garrett since his altercation with Mason Rudolph started a brawl at the end of last November’s Steelers-Browns game in Cleveland. Pryor went on to ask Tomlin about his message to the team this week about avoiding distractions and putting last year in the rear-view mirror.

“There really is no message,” Tomlin said. “My day to day existence kinda relays that message that you suggested. There’s a lot on the table in reference to this game in terms of stakes. They are a 4-1 team and we are trying to remain undefeated. We are not looking for that low-hanging fruit or that reality TV storyline and so forth. This is a big game here in 2020.

Mike Tomlin: ‘It’s Hot in the North’

Indeed it is a big game, as the Steelers hope to put a little distance between themselves and the Browns, who are tied for second in the AFC North with the 4-1 Baltimore Ravens, though the Ravens already have a head-to-head victory over the Browns.

It’s been a long time since the Browns have started 4-1, which last happened in 1994, when Bill Belichick was Cleveland’s head coach. And the Browns haven’t won at Heinz Field since 2003, the year before the Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger, who is 12-0 at home against Cleveland (and 23-2-1 vs. the Browns overall, currently tied with Baker Mayfield as the winningest quarterback in FirstEnergy Stadium history.)

Even the Cincinnati Bengals are on the mend with a 1-3-1 record and a franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow.

It all adds up to the AFC North being arguably the toughest division in football.

“AFC North ball is in the kitchen,” as Tomlin put it on Tuesday. “It’s hot in the North right now.”

Tomlin: Myles Garrett is a ‘Freakish Talent’

So it’s no wonder Tomlin wants to focus on neutralizing Garrett’s impact during the game this Sunday.

“We know about his freakish talent,” said Tomlin on Tuesday about Garrett, the former No. 1 overall draft pick who has six sacks and 10 quarterback hits so far this season—and a big reason why the Browns lead the NFL with a dozen turnovers.

“He’s a Defensive Player of the Year-like candidate…. He’s been a game-changer in just about every game he’s played so far,” added Tomlin.

Does Myles Garrett Still Want a Face-to-Face with Mason Rudolph?

It’s another question entirely as to whether Myles Garrett has been able to put last year’s incident behind him—and whether it will serve as a distraction on Sunday. Garrett was suspended by the NFL in mid-November and wasn’t reinstated until February of this year.

More notably, it was only a month ago that he floated the idea of a face-to-face with Mason Rudolph, presumably to try to clear the air. Of course, Rudolph isn’t likely to be receptive to such a meeting, as Garrett accused Rudolph of calling him a racial slur during the fight, and later doubled-down on that allegation. (After an investigation the NFL said there was no evidence that Rudolph uttered a racial slur.)

So while Sunday’s game isn’t reality TV, it is must-see TV for NFL fans. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo calling the game for CBS.

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