The Steelers and the Bengal have had a proper hatred for each other for years now, a product of being in the same division. However, games between the two AFC North rivals have been especially violent lately, often with Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict at the center of controversy.
So why would it be any different this season?
Burfict, just returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, delivered a questionable late hit to wide receiver Antonio Brown on Sunday, appearing to purposely leave his elbow out to make contact with Brown’s helmet when he was arguable already ruled down
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 14, 2018
Adding to that, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger claims that Burfict followed up that hit with a threat to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next,'” Roethlisberger told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “How do you allow that stuff?”
Smith-Schuster also chimed in:
“They were all making threats on me,” Smith-Schuster said. “Burfict was out there lying, saying I spit on him, which I didn’t. This was the most physical game I’ve been in. Their defense was coming after all of us. You could just see it with the talking, the pushing and shoving, the tackling, the extra stuff.”
There’s plenty of bad blood left over, as the last meeting between the two teams from last December featured Smith-Schuster dropping Burfict with a violent block, forcing the Bengals’ bully out of the game with a concussion.
It doesn’t sound like Burfict will be suspended for his play on Sunday, but the league is looking at multiple plays that could be deemed worthy of a fine. The two teams meet again on December 30, so circle those calendars.