Tue Nov 19 4:22pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin watches during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Steelers coach Mike Tomlin accepted his team’s role in the now-infamous fight last Thursday night that ended with Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with Rudolph’s own helmet.
Just don’t expect Tomlin to use the video of a brawl he called “ugly for the game of football” as a teachable moment. He doesn’t think one is required.
“I don't know that we did anything to make it happen in the first place,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “That's why I said we didn't have anything to learn from it."
Garrett and Rudolph became tangled up after Garrett took Rudolph to the ground shortly after the quarterback let go of a pass in the final seconds of Cleveland’s 21-7 win.
In the chaos that ensued, Rudolph grabbed the back of Garrett’s helmet and pulled. Garrett responded by snatching Rudolph’s facemask and ripping Rudolph’s helmet off. Steelers guard David DeCastro attempted to intervene, pushing Garrett away. Rudolph gave chase and Garrett swung Rudolph’s helmet, connecting with Rudolph’s head in the process.
“All of us that are involved in the game, particularly at this level, want to safeguard and protect the game, it’s integrity,” Tomlin said. “And in that instance, it was compromised, obviously with an unfortunate incident. None of us want those things to transpire. It did. We were a part of it. We accept responsibility of our actions within it."
Garrett received an indefinite suspension from the NFL, which also fined both teams $250,000. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey earned a three-game ban for punching and kicking at Garrett in the aftermath and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended one game for knocking down Rudolph from behind.
All three players are appealing the respective rulings and with the AFC North rivals meeting again in less than two weeks, the debate over who’s to blame for what isn’t likely to die down anytime soon.
Outside of owning up to his team’s actions and hinting the Browns started it, Tomlin declined to get into detail, saying only “we have some people going through appeals and so forth, I don't want to jeopardize that in any way."
More pressing for Tomlin than trying to assess blame is finding a way to get Pittsburgh (5-5) back on track following its worst performance since a season-opening 30-point loss to New England.
While the outside world fixated on the unprecedented punishment handed out by the league, Tomlin was more focused on the 59 minutes and 52 seconds that came before things got out of hand. Long before Garrett and Rudolph went at it, the Browns had beat up and beaten down the Steelers.
“It's easy to seek comfort in that sidebar distraction and not talk about what really needs to be talked about from our perspective, is that we played a losing football game,” Tomlin said. “We didn't execute well enough in all three phases to secure victory."
Pittsburgh will try to stay in the playoff mix on Sunday at winless Cincinnati (0-10) but will likely do it without Pouncey, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner. The odds of Pouncey’s suspension being lifted completely are slim. Smith-Schuster is dealing with a concussion and Conner aggravated the shoulder injury that forced him to miss two games last month.
Rookie running back Benny Snell Jr. could return after missing a month with a knee injury, but even if he’s able to play Pittsburgh’s skill position group remains a mish-mash of players, most of whom began the season far down the depth chart either with the Steelers or elsewhere. Pittsburgh signed rookie wide receiver Deon Cain and rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. - both practice squad players with other teams - to the 53-man roster earlier this week. There’s a chance one or both could be on the field Sunday.
“The bottom line is our jobs is to win games regardless of circumstance and so that's our focus,” Tomlin said. “I really don't spend a lot of time crying over who's available or who's not available. It's as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling. If you're a competitor like we as coaches are competitors, that fires you up. You want to smile in the face of adversity and deliver and so that's our focus."
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (coach's decision) is inactive for Week 15 against the Arizona Cardinals. Coach Reddie Kitchens reportedly "was hesitant" to activate Njoku off the IR last week- and the 23-year-old struggled against the Bengals. Backups Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones will likely share targets, which is unfortunate because the Cardinals are the most tight-end-friendly matchup in fantasy football. Neither player is the most appealing option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions due to a hamstring injury. Before leaving the game, Godwin had caught five passes for 121 yards. With Mike Evans also out, the Bucs receiving corps will be led by Breshad Perriman and Scott Miller.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin left Sunday's game against the Lions with an apparent leg injury. He will not return. Godwin was spotted limping after running a route, and after attempting to exit the game under his own power, he was eventually carted back to the locker room. Before his exit, the 23-year-old caught five of his seven targets for 121 yards. Not good news for a Bucs team that recently announced that Mike Evans (hamstring) could miss the remainder of the year after suffering an ailment of his own.
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku has been declared inactive for the team's Week 15 game. Njoku did not look sharp during practice this week and struggled with drops and some routes during the week, according to the Associated Press' Tom Withers.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku recently returned from the Reserve/Injured list but appears to need more time to return to game speed. Demetrius Harris likely will serve as the starting tight end but can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is listed as active for Week 15's matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. This was expected as Thielen completed a full week of practice. He will return to a favorable matchup as stud cornerback Desmond King will not play and the Chargers rank 20th in pass DVOA for the season. The Vikings passing game has been rolling as of late and they project to have to throw in this game as they're favored by just one point. Obviously, Thielen comes with some risk as he's returning from a lengthy injury absence, but he can be utilized in fantasy lineups as a high-end WR3 with sneaky upside in this matchup.
The Minnesota Vikings have declared RB Alexander Mattison, DE Hercules Mata'afa, OT Aviante Collins, DE Jalyn Holmes, SS Jayron Kearse, OL Olisaemeka Udoh and OG Dru Samia inactive for Week 15.
The Oakland Raiders have declared QB Mike Glennon, OT Trent Brown, DL Olsen Pierre, LB Kyle Wilber, CB Daryl Worley, WR Hunter Renfrow and OT David Sharpe inactive for Week 15.
The Los Angeles Chargers have declared DL Sylvester Williams, CB Desmond King, OT Trey Pipkins, QB Easton Stick, S Roderic Teamer, WR Jalen Guyton and OG Spencer Drango inactive for Week 15.
The Cleveland Browns have declared WR Taywan Taylor, LB Olivier Vernon, OT Drew Forbes, TE Pharaoh Brown, DL Justin Zimmer, CB Eric Murray and TE David Njoku inactive for Week 15.
Updating a previous report, Green Bay Packers CB Tramon Williams (head) has been cleared to return to the Week 15 game after being checked for a concussion.
Detroit Lions DT Mike Daniels (arm) suffered an arm injury during the Week 15 game and is considered questionable to return.
Kansas City Chiefs DE Alex Okafor (chest) suffered a chest injury during the Week 15 game and will not return.
Green Bay Packers RB Tyler Ervin (hand) suffered a hand injury during the Week 15 game and is considered questionable to return.
Green Bay Packers CB Tramon Williams (head) left the Week 15 game early and is being evaluated for a concussion.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (thumb) is officially active for Week 15 against the Detroit Lions. Winston wasn't able to throw a football in practice until Friday, though he was able to finish off last week's 456-yard, four-touchdown performance with the injury. Winston has a great chance to stay hot against Detroit's suspect pass defense. Fantasy owners must beware the risk- Winston can be erratic even without a fractured thumb.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs, illness) is inactive for Week 15 against the Denver Broncos. Darwin Thompson, LeSean McCoy and Spencer Ware will shoulder the load for Kansas City. The Chiefs backfield isn't an ideal fantasy situation, though McCoy, who's had success running in snowy conditions, and Thompson are probably the safest choices.
Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) is officially inactive for Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Scarbrough wasn't able to practice on Thursday or Friday, so it was likely a longshot for him to play anyway. Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, and practice-squad call-up Wes Hills will lead the backfield in Scarbrough's absence. All are shaky plays, considering Tampa Bay possesses the league's best run defense.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (concussion) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Parker has been playing well during the second half of the season and should continue to be the main option in the passing game for the Dolphins. He will have a favorable matchup and can be at least a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (groin, wrist) is active for Week 15's game against the Chicago Bears.
New England Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Sanu has posted disappointing numbers since joining the Patriots but should have a favorable matchup this week. He could be a flex option in some deeper leagues but can also be benched if fantasy players have better options available.