Garrett had dragged Rudolph to the ground late in a 21-7 Browns win, only for the quarterback to pry at the defender’s helmet while possibly throwing a kick toward him. The pass rusher responded by lifting Rudolph up by his facemask, tearing off his helmet, and clubbing him with it. Garrett alleged he was set off by a racial slur from the Steelers QB, a claim which Rudolph has denied and the NFL says it could find no evidence. By the time the dust settled, three players (Garrett, Browns lineman Larry Ogunjobi, and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who’d punched and kicked Garrett in retaliation) were suspended. Several others were fined.
While that brawl may have been a low point for the NFL’s brand, it also served to reignite a rivalry that had cooled considerably in the past decade. Browns-Steelers was once one of the fiercest battles in the AFC, but had been tempered by Cleveland’s 6-33 record against Pittsburgh since 2000. Week 11’s primetime meltdown stoked those long-smoldering cinders, and the Browns and Steelers are wearing the proof.
Let’s break down these rude t-shirts worn before Browns-Steelers 2 and figure out which side is doing the better trash talk without saying a word at all.
Freddie Kitchens: “Pittsburgh started it”
The Browns head coach got things started by wearing a “Pittsburgh started it” shirt the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was reportedly a gift from his daughters — he got snapped wearing it while out to see a post-holiday movie with his family. He immediately regretted that decision (the shirt, not the movie) and said it was “not a good look” when pressed by reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Originality: 5/10. A basic message, but it gets the point across.
Trash talk: 6/10. See above — but with an extra point for being the first volley fired in the shirt wars.
Style: 8/10. Browns colors in a classic throwback font. Clean look.
Cam Heyward: “Free Pouncey”
Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward rolled into Heinz Field wearing a sweatshirt supporting his fellow trenchmate, and he wasn’t alone. Several Pittsburgh players picked up custom hoodies this week to defend the guy who’d kicked Garrett and have made it clear they think the center did nothing wrong. Pouncey had his original three-game suspension reduced to two upon appeal, but that still meant he’d miss Sunday’s rematch with the Browns.
Originality: 4/10. Was “Maurkice Pouncey did nothing wrong” too wordy?
Trash talk: 5/10. Basic, but a tried-and-true format that presents the team’s argument simply.
Style: 5/10. No connection to the team, boring font, and a distracting Nike logo on the front. I probably wouldn’t wear it, but I gave it a bonus point for looking comfortable as hell.
Diontae Johnson:”Urinating infant”
Ah, the old “Calvin pissing on a Chevrolet logo” template. I’m not sure from which Monroeville-area flea market Johnson got this sweatshirt, but I guarantee it will fall apart between its third and fifth washings.
Also, and I’m asking this because it must be asked. Why is the Steeler a baby?
Originality: 7/10. I’m torn. It’s not an original idea — the fact it’s not ripped from a Calvin & Hobbes print must have Bill Watterson thanking the lesser football gods — but it’s certainly something we haven’t seen recently. Points for the throwback, I guess?
Trash talk: 8/10. PREPARE TO BE DOUSED IN BABY URINE, ASSHOLES.
Style: 2/10. Objectively a horrible sweatshirt, typically worn only by men who’d like to know whether or not you’re selling that cherry ‘85 Monte Carlo you’re standing next to.
Oh, it’s not yours and has been abandoned on the street for more than a year, as evidenced by the four flat tires and Thanksgiving centerpiece-sized array of parking tickets on the windshield?
Browns-Steelers has coaches acting like they’re about to give the NFL its own Iron Bowl:
I just asked a Cleveland coach what it was like on the bus over here…he said “you know what it feels like between Auburn and Alabama, that hate. That’s here right now. The Steelers think they are Kings of the North? That’s changing today.” #browns #steelers
— Dianna (@diannaESPN) December 1, 2019
Sunday’s game probably won’t end on a doinked field goal and the use of a punter at wideout to ice the contest, but it’ll probably be similarly chippy. Pittsburgh and Cleveland have never liked each other, even as the Browns were in the midst of their 12-year tanking program. After Week 11’s brawl, that animosity is higher than it’s ever been this millennium.
And the two sides have the t-shirts to prove it.