The gesture would have been innocuous in nearly any other circumstance.
No move is meaningless when the Browns meet the Pittsburgh Steelers, given the rivalry’s storied history of animosity. But a pregame conversation that would be overlooked against any other foe was notable Sunday because Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was facing the Steelers for the first time since an uncharacteristic moment of rage that might still stain his legacy.
During warmups, Garrett approached Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, put his arm around him and they talked for a few seconds. Tomlin was the only Steeler Garrett engaged before kickoff at Heinz Field.
The last time the two were in the same stadium, in the waning seconds of a Browns’ home victory on Nov. 14, Garrett erupted when provoked by Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and hitting him over the head with it. A melee ensued, and Pro Bowler Garrett was suspended by the league for the final six games.
Garrett told ESPN’s Mina Kimes in the offseason that Rudolph had used a racial slur, an accusation vehemently denied by Rudolph and Tomlin.
That’s why Garrett walking to midfield to speak to Tomlin took on such significance. In a 38-7 Steelers rout in Heinz Field in which injured and battered Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was lifted with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter, it was an olive branch to remember in an utter manhandling.