Mason Rudolph knew the questions about Myles Garrett were coming as he began Friday's media session. The Steelers' third-year quarterback will start Sunday's game in Cleveland, 13 months after his altercation with the Browns' pass rusher near the end of the Browns' 21-7 victory. Rudolph was fined $50,000 for his role in the fight. Garrett was fined more than $45,000 and was forced to miss the Browns' final six games of the 2019 season.
Garrett told Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot in September that he would like to sit down with Rudolph in order to "move forward, and just being better men and football players and not letting something like that happen again." Rudolph was asked if he would be open to making that conversation happen.
"Happy to hear Myles out," Rudolph said, via ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "If he wants to approach me, wants to talk."
Garrett, who said that he openly contemplated retiring during his suspension, ultimately decided to continue his career, in part because he did not want the last image on him on a football field to be him swinging a helmet at Rudolph. And while he has yet to speak to Rudolph, Garrett was seen speaking with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin prior to Cleveland's Week 6 loss to Pittsburgh.
"I just don't want any grudges," Garrett said in September. "I don't have any grudge against [Rudolph]. I don't have any ill intent against him. It's not like I'd have anything against him if I saw him in public or if I saw him in a game and we were suited up. I'd just play him like I play anybody else. if I saw him in public, I'd just fist-bump and walk away just like if I saw anybody else on the street that I didn't know personally. I don't have a problem with that. Other than that night, before that play and after that play, I don't think we spoke two words to each other.
"And now our fates are intertwined forever, and so I don't think we should leave it off like that, is my opinion. I feel like we should clear the air so there's no problems and there's no bad blood. Between our teams and our fans, the rivalry I feel like will live off of it, but between the players, I feel like it should always be competitive but never go over the line."
Rudolph was more than complimentary of Garrett's play this season. In 13 games, Garrett has tallied 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while earning his second Pro Bowl selection. Garrett has continued to wreak havoc on offenses despite fighting the effects of COVID-19, which forced him to miss two games.
"He's a menace in the backfield," Rudolph said. "He's very disruptive. ... We obviously are very aware of that and we treat him with respect."
Sunday will be Rudolph's first start of the season and just his second start since last year's Week 10 loss in Cleveland. The Steelers are resting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey, outside linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Cam Heyward after locking up the AFC North title last Sunday.
Garrett and the Browns can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Steelers. If the Browns lose, they would need either a Colts loss or a Titans loss along with wins by the Ravens and Dolphins in order to make the playoffs. If the Browns make the playoffs, Cleveland and Pittsburgh could possibly face each other in the first round. The Steelers have won both of their playoff showdowns with the Browns, defeating Cleveland at home in 1994 and in 2002.