Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has once again come to the defense of quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Tomlin on Monday appeared on ESPN’s “First Take,” not only to reaffirm his support of Rudolph — who Browns defensive end Myles Garrett claims used a racial slur against him in the teams’ Nov. 14 meeting — but also to lambaste the network for the way it handled Garrett’s interview.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Thursday released a condensed interview with Garrett in which he alleged, again, that Rudolph called him “a stupid N-word” moments before the brawl between the two teams. The full interview aired on Saturday. In it, ESPN’s Mina Kimes mentions to Garrett the NFL found no evidence of his claims.
Tomlin said he was “hacked off” by the way ESPN handled the piece, saying it was unfair to Rudolph and that it didn’t reflect that he, the Steelers and Browns organizations and the NFL found no evidence of him calling Garrett the N-word.
MORE: Rudolph, Tomlin rebuke Garrett’s claims against Steelers quarterback
“But when these allegations returned this past weekend, I thought it was appropriate that Mason is properly defended. It was a thorough investigation done by us and the National Football League. I don’t think that that was represented during that piece. These accusations are serious, not only in terms of Mason Rudolph’s character, but his professional pursuits. Nobody on that field, as a member of the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers, corroborated what was said by Myles Garrett. That was founded by us and the National Football League. And at no point during that piece this weekend, that was stated.
Myself personally, I was on the field immediately after that altercation and subsequently after the game. I’ve got a lot of personal relationships within that organization over there in Cleveland. At no point did anyone within that organization come forward and say, ‘Mike, heads up, we’ve got a situation here,’ or something of that nature that you would expect to come with those types of allegations. So I fully support Mason Rudolph, we as an organization fully support Mason Rudolph. And to be quite honest with you, we were hacked off with what we saw this weekend. Not specifically from Myles Garrett — he’s been in the lane that he’s in — but what was displayed by ESPN and that panel. The way that the situation was presented, I don’t think was fair to Mason Rudolph, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Both Rudolph and the NFL released statements in response to the “OTL” piece. Rudolph called Garrett’s claim “1000% false” while the NFL again stated that it found no evidence Rudolph used the racial slur toward Garrett.
Garrett, suspended indefinitely over his role in the brawl, was reinstated by the NFL last week.
Update: ESPN reached out to Sporting News, providing a screen shot of the “OTL” piece that ran on Saturday in which a graphic is shown mentioning the NFL had not found evidence Rudolph used a racial slur: