CLEVELAND -- Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was ejected in the closing seconds of Thursday night's game against the Steelers after ripping the helmet off quarterback Mason Rudolph and striking him in the head with it.
Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who pushed Rudolph to the ground from behind after the Steelers quarterback had been hit by Garrett, and Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey also were ejected. Pouncey jumped into Garrett and punched and kicked him as Steelers teammate David DeCastro pinned Garrett to the ground.
"I thought it was pretty cowardly," Rudolph said of Garrett's actions following Cleveland's 21-7 victory. "Pretty bush league."
The melee started when Rudolph dumped a pass to running back Trey Edmunds late in the fourth quarter then was dragged to the ground by Garrett. Rudolph appeared to try to dislodge Garrett's helmet while they were on the ground. Garrett ripped off Rudolph's helmet once they stood up and took a swing with it, connecting on the top of Rudolph's helmetless head.
Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens afterward called Garrett's actions "embarrassing" and said there was "no excuse" for what Garrett had done.
"I've never seen that in my life," Kitchens said. "It's not good."
Garrett wouldn't go into the details of what happened or what led to his reaction, but he agreed with Kitchens' characterization.
"What I did was foolish, and I shouldn't allow myself to slip like that," Garrett said. "That's out of character, but a situation like that where it's an emotional game, and I allowed myself to fall into those emotions with what happened."
The longest ban for a single on-field incident in NFL history is the five games Albert Haynesworth got in 2006 for stomping on Andre Gurode's head. Garrett said he has "no clue" if this would be his final game of the year, but Pouncey said he believes Garrett should be suspended for the rest of the season.
"Absolutely, 100 percent," Pouncey said. "We'll see how serious the NFL is about their players. ... My man got hit in the head with a helmet."
Pouncey said he was unconcerned with the punishment he could face from the incident, telling reporters he "blacked out" and went into "protection mode" when the fight started.
"At that point, it's bigger than football," Pouncey said. "It's protection. ... He could have killed him. What if he'd hit in him the temple?"
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who spent the first seven seasons of his career in Cleveland, said Garrett's actions were out of character and unacceptable.
"Myles is a good dude," Haden said. "I mean, I've never seen him act like that or do anything like that on what happened. But that's not OK."
The game was chippy even before that point, and Steelers wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson exited the game early with concussions they suffered from helmet-to-helmet hits. Johnson's ear was bleeding as he left the field.
But Steelers players said those hits weren't the catalyst for the end-of-game explosion.
"That part's football," Pouncey said. "Guys are trying not to hit guys helmet to helmet. ... That's not the first time that's happened. We can't say that was it. This was just sporadic."
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin had "no comment" on the incident, only to say, "You guys saw what happened." But several Cleveland players, including quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. condemned Garrett's actions.
Mayfield, who has been friends with Rudolph since college -- when the two played for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, respectively -- called Garrett hitting Rudolph in the head with a helmet "inexcusable."
"Obviously, stuff like that is dangerous," Mayfield said. "So it was tough to see that, knowing Mason.
"It was tough to watch."