Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin vehemently defended Mason Rudolph on Monday after Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett again said that the quarterback directed a racial slur at him just before the teams' brawl in November.
"I took offense to it," Tomlin told ESPN's "First Take" when asked for his response to Garrett's allegation. Tomlin added, "I thought it was appropriate that Mason was properly defended. These accusations are serious. Not only in terms of Mason Rudolph's character but his professional pursuits."
Garrett was suspended indefinitely after ripping off Rudolph's helmet and hitting the quarterback in the head with it near the end of the Week 11 contest. He was also fined. After appealing the suspension, Garrett confirmed a report that he'd told the NFL that Rudolph directed a racial slur at him. The league looked into the allegation and found "no such evidence," as Tomlin noted during Monday's interview.
"It was presented as a he said-he said situation, even to this day," Tomlin said, according to ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "I think the National Football League office was very clear that they launched a thorough investigation among all parties involved, including interviewing the people and the analysis of technology that was on that field, and found no evidence of Myles' allegation, and I think that should be stated."
In Garrett's first interview since being reinstated from his suspension, he maintained that Rudolph used a racial slur. "He called me the N-word," Garrett said. "He called me a 'stupid N-word.'"
Rudolph disputed the claim minutes after Garrett's full interview aired Saturday.
The quarterback was fined for his role in the scuffle, which Tomlin said wasn't fair.
"He got fined $50,000 for essentially getting beaten up," the coach said Monday. "His reputation has been tarnished because of the allegations, none of which was founded."
Tomlin also said Monday that he has no doubt that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be available for the start of the Steelers' 2020 campaign. Roethlisberger appeared in only two games in 2019 before he required season-ending elbow surgery.