Roethlisberger was sacked once and officially hit four times, according to the box score, but he saw enough carnage to last an entire season.
Two players, Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cincinnati’s George Iloka, received suspensions for their part in the violence. Smith-Schuster blindsided the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict, resulting in the linebacker being stretchered off with a concussion, while Iloka was disciplined for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
“The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided,” NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan said in issuing Smith-Schuster’s suspension. “Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”
While Smith-Schuster and Iloka’s hits were purposeful and malicious, the scariest injury of the night came on a routine tackle by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Shazier suffered an apparent spinal injury and after the game, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert issued a statement that said, “Ryan’s injury will not require surgery at this time.” Tuesday afternoon, Pittsburgh’s local CBS station reported that he will remain at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and will undergo testing and evaluation before returning to Pittsburgh on Wednesday or Thursday.
“I’ve been in that situation. I’ve been carted off before. It’s a scary thing,” Roethlisberger said. “You just start praying and you worry about family members back home or people watching on TV. That’s one of the scary things, too, that people don’t think about. … I know how scary it is when people sit at home and your family members and your loved ones see that on TV.
“It’s not an easy thing, and it’s just a scary, violent game we play.”
To anyone familiar with this AFC North rivalry, Monday night’s chippy contest was no surprise. Since 2006, hits from Steelers-Bengals have been responsible for three rule changes.
First in the 2006 playoffs, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Carson Palmer below the knees and caused a major knee injury. That offseason, the league made a rule that requires defenders to take every opportunity to avoid hitting a quarterback at or below the knees when the quarterback is in a defenseless position. In 2008, Hines Ward broke Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers’ jaw with a blind-side block. By the next season, the league outlawed blindside blocks that use the blocker’s helmet, forearm or shoulder and land to the head or neck area of the defender. In the 2016 playoffs, a hit by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier on Bengals running back Giovani Bernard changed the NFL’s stance on using the crown of the helmet to make forceful contact.
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