Pittsburgh poised to host Cleveland in first meeting since Browns-Steelers 'Helmetgate' brawl
The melee, which occurred with just eight seconds remaining on the clock during the Browns' November 14 win against their AFC North rivals, has meant that several of the participants in the initial game will be forced to watch the rematch from the sidelines.
Garrett, the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, won't play until next season, after being issued with a heavy suspension and fine for swinging Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph's own helmet at his head in a scene which prompted a bench-emptying brawl near the end zone at the Browns FirstEnergy Stadium.Also on rt.com 'I've never seen that in my life': Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett smashes Steelers’ Mason Rudolph in head with helmet (VIDEO)
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will also be absent as he remains suspended for a further game for punching and kicking Garrett moments after the incident. Garrett's defensive line partner Larry Ogunjobi returns to the fold after serving a one game suspension in the Browns 41-24 win against the Miami Dolphins a week ago.
Garrett's suspension was upheld during a disciplinary meeting with league officials recently, despite stating that he'd overheard Rudolph uttering a racial slur and this was the primary reason for the melee. Rudolph vigorously denies the allegations.
As for Rudolph, he escaped serious sanctions despite evidence suggesting he played a part in inciting the brawl but will also be absent after he was benched in the third quarter of the Steelers' 16-10 victory against the winless Cincinatti Bengals last week. In his stead, undrafted free agent Devlin 'Duck' Hodges will be tasked with masterminding the Steelers offence.
In all, the brawl led to 33 players being fined and/or suspended but even with the brawl's principal players not taking to the field on Sunday there is certain to be an atmosphere of animosity between the two sides who have maintained a years-long rivalry, even without the specter of last month's brawl hanging over them.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens came under fire last week after being photographed wearing a t-shirt which read 'Pittsburgh started it' in an obvious reference to the November 14 incident. The team's co-owner Dee Haslam has also been seen in public wearing a Myles Garrett shirt, in an obvious show of support for their star edge rusher.
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, says that the animosity on the field is just part and parcel of being in the NFL.
"This is why we play, for these types of games that are going to be competitive, where the other team comes in with a chip on their shoulder," he said.
Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns' star receiver, agreed that it will be an intense encounter - just like every game in the NFL.
"Every game is intense ... it's a rivalry already, so I think we know what's at stake," he said. "We could talk it up ... but in my eyes, it's just another football game."Also on rt.com NFL upholds 'indefinite ban' against Myles Garrett over helmet attack as Browns star alleges Mason Rudolph used racial slur
Whether or not the tension spills over once again will remain to be seen but the game also features another layer of potential animosity as both teams are currently duelling for the runner-up spot in the division and possible playoff contention.
A win for the Browns would move their record to 6-6 for the season and complete the first double against the Steelers since 1988 - a significant prize in its own right.