We expected a Monday Night Football tilt between the Steelers and the Bengals to be a physical, hard-hitting, grind of a game. After all, these two teams have a pretty heated history of hating each other, a history that includes late hits, angry scuffles, and multiple fines and suspensions.
But no one expected what happened on the field Monday night.
The game was already being played under the dark shadow of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier being stretchered off after a scary head/neck injury suffered early in the game. Although the hit itself looked innocent enough (Shazier simply tried to make a tackle), he instantly fell to the ground and appeared to be frantically trying (and failing) to move his lower body. He was taken immediately to hospital, but the show must go on.
As the game wore on, and the score remained close, the hits kept coming. First, it was Pittsburgh rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster laying out Vontaze Burfict with a vicious blindside block. Burfict appeared to be out cold. To make matter worse, Smith-Schuster had the gall to stand over Burfict’s unconscious body and taunt him. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but was not ejected (similar to Rob Gronkowski’s non-ejection from the weekend).
Burfict left the game and did not return.
Burfict was out cold. ? pic.twitter.com/vanGfiWZt2
— ㅤ (@_JD214_) December 5, 2017
Later in the fourth quarter, Bengals safety George Iloka delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the endzone, after Brown had hauled in the game-tying touchdown pass. Miraculously, Brown both held on the the ball and got up and walked away afterwards. It could have been much worse. Then again, we had already seen that in this game.
Antonio Brown is just unreal. pic.twitter.com/I546rZgsw4
— Justin Albers (@Justin_Albers) December 5, 2017
As the NFL struggles to contend with the issues of violence and head injuries, these kinds of games are getting even tougher to watch. No one wants to tune in to watch grown men permanently maim and cripple each other. The announcers even opined, live on air, that this type of game was bad for the NFL and bad for the sport of football in general.
Now we’ll wait and see what the NFL does in terms of punishment. Gronkowski only got a single game suspension for his vicious headhunting hit on Sunday, which attracted a lot of criticism. After all, Tom Brady got four games for “probably” deflating some footballs, but causing serious bodily harm will only give you a week off.
The NFL needs to get their priorities straight.
They should toss out the one-game precedent that they set (only yesterday!) and suspend anyone who targets the head for minimum of four games. Repeat offender? Eight games. Or the entire season. Until everyone learns to play the game without killing each other.
What did Ben Roethlisberger have to say about the violent nature of the game?
Ben Roethlisberger was just asked by Lisa Salters how to “explain … the viciousness and brutality” of this football game.
“AFC North football.”
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 5, 2017
You’re not helping, Ben.