In a Week 17 full of playoff implications, no game is more personal than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Cleveland Browns.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that quarterback Mason Rudolph will start in place of Ben Roethlisberger against the Browns, who are facing a win-and-in situation in the NFL playoff picture. Nearly any Browns or Steelers fan can tell you why that matters. A night that ended with an assault via football helmet is going to be memorable, as will the bad blood it created.
However, it appears the two men at the center of the conflict are willing to move on.
Mason Rudolph and Myles Garrett want to talk it out
Rudolph told reporters on Friday that he has not spoken with Garrett since the incident, but would be willing to talk if the defender reached out.
"I'm happy to hear Myles out with whatever he would -- if he wants to approach me, if he wants to talk," Rudolph said Friday. "He's a great player, and they are playing well as a defense. He's a menace in the backfield. He's very disruptive. When they are playing at their best, he's sack-fumbling and he's getting to the quarterback. Obviously, you are very aware of that, and you treat him with great respect."
The feeling is apparently mutual on Garrett’s end:
"If he wants to talk after the game or before the game, let it come naturally," [Garrett] said.
That’s about as cordial a reaction as you’re going to see between two men involved in a helmet-bashing incident that got even uglier when Garrett reportedly alleged Rudolph instigated the confrontation by using a racial slur. Rudolph has strongly denied the allegation.
Tomlin has insisted that the Steelers have moved past the incident, though the Browns indicated they may still see some significance in the matchup by selecting Garrett as a captain for the game. While Garrett reportedly requested to be a captain for the game, he also insisted there will be nothing different in his approach:
“He'll get hit just like everybody else. I'm not going to put a pillow underneath his head before I take him to the ground. But I'm not going to do anything extra.”
We’ll see how that plays out on Sunday.
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