Tomlin, Steelers welcome ‘heat’ of North rival Browns
The last time the Steelers took the field against the Cleveland Browns, Myles Garrett became the focus by using Pittsburgh backup quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet as a weapon in a fracas that led to multiple suspensions.
Undefeated Pittsburgh (4-0) kicks the gates open for Garrett and the Browns (3-1) on Sunday in a critical AFC North division matchup at Heinz Field.
“They’re a 4-1 team,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We’re trying to remain undefeated. We’re not looking for that low-hanging fruit or that reality TV storyline and so forth. This is a big game here in 2020.”
Tomlin downplayed the Garrett storyline, instead focusing on the play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — who was recovering from elbow surgery during the Garrett-Rudolph drama last season — and his team’s first 4-0 start since the 1970s.
The defending division champion Baltimore Ravens, who went 14-2 last season, are also off to a hot start again in 2020.
“We love being in the kitchen,” Tomlin said. “AFC North ball is in the kitchen. It’s hot in the North right now.”
The Steelers and Ravens play for the first time this season on Nov. 1. The second game between those teams is Nov. 26.
The fight with the Browns last November in Week 11 forced Garrett off the field for the remainder of the season and led to discipline for 33 players with fines amounting to $732,422.
Garrett alleged Rudolph sparked the incident with a racial slur. Teammates of the Steelers quarterback denied Rudolph used any derogatory term and defended Rudolph in the moment.
Since then, the Browns had another coaching change — Freddie Kitchens was fired, replaced by Kevin Stefanski — and Garrett is lining up in a new defensive scheme as one of the NFL’s highest-paid defenders. Garrett signed a five-year, $125 million deal in July and is off to the most productive start of his career in 2020 with six sacks and three forced fumbles.
Tomlin said there’s no way around it, Garrett is a “freakish talent.”
History is on Roethlisberger’s side. He’s 23-2-1 all-time in the matchup with the Browns, including a 12-0 record at Heinz Field.
–Field Level Media