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Head to head: Steelers, Browns continue rivalry silently

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Tue, Dec 3rd 2019 03:45 pm
Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers wears a shirt saying `Free Pouncey` before his team's second game against the Cleveland Browns this season on Sunday, Dec. 1. Heyward's shirt is referencing his suspended teammate, Maurkice Pouncey.
Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers wears a shirt saying "Free Pouncey" before his team's second game against the Cleveland Browns this season on Sunday, Dec. 1. Heyward's shirt is referencing his suspended teammate, Maurkice Pouncey.

Football is a violent sport by nature. On every play, people are tackled and injuries are more likely to occur than in almost any other sport. Occasionally, two players or teams will fight because the physicality gets to be a little too extreme. When a fight broke out between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14, the physicality almost reached a legal level and started a rivalry that has continued off the field.

Late in the fourth quarter on Nov. 14, Cleveland defensive lineman Myles Garrett took down Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph. Rudolph responded by reaching for Garrett’s helmet while the two were on the ground. Garrett countered by ripping Rudolph’s helmet off his head. He stood up and was being separated from Rudolph by multiple players when the quarterback charged at him. Garrett swung Rudolph’s helmet and hit him on the head with it. Rudolph was tackled again by a differently Cleveland player and Garrett was wrestled to the ground by multiple players and kicked in the head by Pittsburgh offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey.

After the game, Garrett apologized and took responsibility for his actions.

“I made a mistake, I lost my cool and I regret it,” Garrett said at his locker after the game. “It’s gonna come back to hurt our team. The guys who jumped in the scrum, I appreciate my team having my back but it should’ve never gotten to that point. It’s on me.”

Rudolph called the events that led to the fight “cowardly and bush league.”

“I got sacked, we exchanged some words, he kept keeping on and one thing led to another,” Rudolph told reporters. “You can go back and watch the tape if you want and make your own assumptions.”

According to CBS News, Garrett received the longest suspension in NFL history for on-field conduct as a result of the fight. He was suspended indefinitely, but at least for the rest of the 2019 season. Jake Trotter of ESPN reported he must also meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before he can be reinstated in 2020. Rudolph was given a $50,000 fine, the biggest of anyone involved. In total, $732,000 worth of fines were handed out and Pouncey was also suspended.

The two teams were scheduled to meet two weeks later on Sunday, Dec. 1. While most players and coaches from each team attempted to deflect the public buildup of the rematch, some decided to wear T-shirts to make their opinions on the matter known.

Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens took a picture with a fan that was posted on social media while he was wearing a shirt that said “Pittsburgh started it” on Friday, Nov. 29. The picture was retweeted and shared on multiple social media platforms. His decision to wear the shirt in public drew much criticism, but he defended it after his team lost on Sunday.

“I wore a T-shirt. I wore a jacket with it. My daughters wanted me to wear the shirt. And I’d wear it again,” Kitchens said to Nick Shook of NFL.com. “I put a jacket on, I covered it up. I took a picture with a fan. That was as simple as that. T-shirt didn’t cause us to give up 40-yard passes, and we were ready to play. That’s the only thing people need to be concerned about. We were ready to play.”

Kitchens was not the only person to wear a T-shirt referencing the brawl. Some Pittsburgh players, including captain Cameron Heyward, wore a shirt that said “Free Pouncey,” in reference to their teammate who was suspended. Heyward was one of the few players to wear the shirt without covering his face.

No Steelers players commented on the decision to wear the shirts after the game.

While the renewed rivalry between the two teams was originally supposed to be due to the level of play on the field, it has been continued by something other than that. With both teams set to play each other twice a year because they are in the same division, the 2020 meeting between the two teams looks to be must-see-TV with Garrett back on the field.

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