The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have been involved in several ugly incidents with the Cincinnati Bengals, are calling for the NFL to suspend Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for a late hit on Antonio Brown during Pittsburgh’s win on Sunday.
“That’s pathetic. The NFL has to do something about that,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said Monday, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “A guy like that, going out there intentionally trying to hurt people, there’s no need for that kind of playing in this league. It’s sad. One of these days he’ll grow up.”
Brown was being brought down by two Bengals defenders in the third quarter Sunday when Burfict arrived late and struck the wide receiver’s head with his arm. Brown was on the ground for a moment, underwent evaluation and returned to the game. There was no flag on the play, and there isn’t likely to be a suspension. However, several plays from the game, which the Steelers won, 28-21, are under review and might prompt fines, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. And the Steelers were less than happy with their longtime nemesis.
“He hits A.B., then literally as I am under center for the next play, he points at [receiver] JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and says, ‘You’re next,’ ” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after the game, via the Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook. “How do you allow that stuff?”
Brown called the blow “a nasty hit,” adding, “Thank God I was able to come back in the game to finish the game."
The unpleasant history between the two teams is lengthy, with Burfict being involved in plays that injured Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger and Brown. In a game between the teams last year, the Bengals were penalized 13 times for a club-record 173 yards. A memorable meeting during the playoffs after the 2015 season included personal foul penalties on Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones.
Burfict, who served a season-opening four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season since 2013. Roethlisberger poked the bear a bit by reminding Burfict of that earlier in Sunday’s game.
“After I did the quarterback sneak that they called back, he got in my face. I said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s good to have you back out here [after the suspension].’ He got all feisty and wanted to fight.”
Smith-Schuster said the Bengals “were all making threats on me. 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.”
It left one player thinking maybe the NFL should consider increasing rules about hitting players who aren’t quarterbacks.
“It’s tough to see A.B, get hit like that,” Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro told ESPN. “With all the emphasis on quarterback safety, what about a guy like A.B.: A superstar he is in this league, how much money he’s getting paid, how much he means to this team? A cheap shot like that, I thought was unnecessary . . . If they want to talk about making this game safer, maybe they will do something. Or maybe they will put in a new rule that no one is going to call when it matters. Maybe it’s a PR stunt.”
Burfict didn’t talk after Sunday’s game, telling reporters to “get your [butts] out of our locker room.” One Cincinnati teammate called on officials to “relax a little bit.”
“We have to see what they call,” Dre Kirkpatrick said (via the Post-Gazette). “The dude just plays football. I don’t think that was intentional. I didn’t even see it. He just plays football. They have to relax a little bit and give him a chance.”
The Steelers got the best of the Bengals with Brown scoring the game-winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds left and Smith-Schuster pulling in three passes over Burfict on that drive. The teams play each other again Dec. 30, this time in Pittsburgh.
“I don’t know what it is about this place,” said Roethlisberger, who is 15-2 (including playoff games) in Cincinnati. “It’s awesome.”
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