Mike Tomlin 'took offense' to Garrett's recent claim

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Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin released a statement over the weekend supporting Mason Rudolph after Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett reiterated his claims the quarterback directed a racial slur at him, which sparked a brawl at the end of a November prime-time game.

Monday, Tomlin, who usually keeps his comments close to the vest, came out much stronger in support of Rudolph during an interview on ESPN's First Take.

"The most recent one, this past weekend, I took offense to it, to be quite honest with you," Tomlin said. "When it first transpired during the season, we don't have a lot of time to pause and fight battles of that nature. We said our peace. We were completely cooperate with all parties involved, the Cleveland Browns organization and the NFL office. And then we had to move on. We had another game awaiting us, and we wanted to be singularly focused. 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 NFL... these accusations are serious. Not only in terms of Mason Rudolph's character but his professional pursuits. Nobody on that field corroborated what was said by Myles Garrett. That was founded by us and the NFL.

"Myself, personally, I was on the field immediately after the altercation and subsequently after the game. I 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 got a situation here' or something of that nature that you would expect comes with those type of allegations. I fully support Mason Rudolph. We as an organization fully support Mason Rudolph and to be quite honest, we were hacked off at 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 in 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."

Tomlin expanded on why he felt the ESPN discussion surrounding the Garrett interview was unfair to Rudolph.

"It was presented as a 'he said, he said' situation," the coach said. "Even to this day, it was presented as a 'he said, he said,' and I think the NFL office was very clear that they launched a thorough investigation among all parties involved, including the interviewing of people and the analysis of technology that was on that field. And they found no evidence of Myles' allegations and I think that that should be stated."

Saturday, Rudolph tweeted that the accusation was a "1000% False. Bold-Faced Lie," and the QB's agent released a statement suggesting legal action could be taken against Garrett.

"I'm not gonna speak for Mason and his representation or try to anticipate their next move," Tomlin said when asked about potential legal actions from Rudolph. I'd imagine their next move is based on how these things unfold moving forward. I think it's probably best that we all shut up and move but I've had that attitude months ago and it hadn't transpired. So, I would expect him to do what's appropriate in terms of protecting his name and reputation and I would do so aggressive' and I don't blame him."

Tomlin also said Rudolph has never wavered in rejecting the notion that he'd used a racial slur.

"He said what he's consistently said throughout this entire ordeal: that he did not and would not say what was said that he said," Tomlin said Monday. "And he's been extremely consistent from Day 0 in that position."

The Steelers' coach was asked how much blame Rudolph shares in starting the brawl that led to multiple suspensions and fines.

"I struggle with that to be honest with you, man," he said. "It's been a lot of negativity around Mason Rudolph. He got fined $50,000 for essentially getting beat up. His reputation has been tarnished because of the allegations, none of which was founded. He was a quarterback in a losing circumstances at the end of a football game. Obviously, he was an active participant in the altercation but a lot of the things that have gone on beyond that, I struggle with."

Tomlin took offense to the notion that the Steelers might try to cover up audio that might have implicated Rudolph.

"I represent the leadership of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and that also was implied during that interview this weekend that somehow we suppressed evidence or were participants in some lack of thoroughness," Tomlin said. "And anybody that knows this organization knows what it stands for, understands how the Rooney family gets down from a business standpoint, that's laughable. We would not participate in the covering up of such issues and we would obviously do what was appropriate in terms of dealing with those circumstances."

The NFL has said it found no evidence the QB used a slur. Tomlin added he wants to move forward and put the ordeal in the past.

"I know that our position is we've had a desire to move on from the moment it happened," he said. "And so that's what we're attempting to do but when this interview came back up this weekend, we thought that Mason needed to be defended. We were placed in these circumstances, this is not something that we desired to be involved in, to be quite honest with you. We're getting ready for free agency and position ourselves for the Indianapolis combine and trying to build a winner for 2020."

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