"It was ugly," he said during Tuesday's press conference. "It was ugly for the game of football. I think all of us that are involved in the game, particularly at this level, want to safeguard and protect the game, its integrity. And in that instance, it was compromised, obviously, with an unfortunate incident."
While he didn't elaborate on player-specific responsibilities because Maurkice Pouncey, Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi are all appealing their suspensions, he did say, "None of us want those incidents to transpire. It did. We were a part of it. We accept responsibility for our actions within it."
The most notable moment of the brawl came when Garrett used Mason Rudolph's helmet to hit the Steelers quarterback in the head, but Pouncey also kicked the Browns defensive end.
Garrett is suspended indefinitely, while Pouncey (three games) and Ogunjobi (one game) received lesser penalties. Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com pointed out that while Rudolph was not suspended, the league is expected to fine him and others involved in the fight.
Tomlin's suggestion the Steelers are partially responsible for what happened comes after Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said Rudolph needs to be punished for his role in the fight.
He "can't antagonize a fight and then claim bullying," Richardson said, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today). "You get what's coming to you. He was protecting himself. I don't blame him. Guy keeps rushing me, even with the helmet off, he's asking for it. Just leave it at that."
The fight will undoubtedly serve as the backdrop for the rematch between the AFC North rivals on Dec. 1.