The Steelers faced off against the Bengals in an AFC North showdown last night on Monday night. Amidst a devastating injury to Ryan Shazier (who since seems to be doing better in the hospital still), we had this fake outrage from people who don’t realize football is violent. The AFC North games are always physical games — these teams hate each other. The NY Post even went as far to say that the game was a “violent mess and terrible for the NFL.” Troy Aikman even went to twitter to air out his thoughts.
Football is supposed to be violent — people are going to get hit, it happens. This isn’t flag football and the fact that people are suddenly outraged at a late season Bengals-Steelers game is outrageous. Especially considering this one wasn’t even as bad as past ones (see: Burfict hit on Antonio Brown in playoffs). The Shazier hit, although bad, was a completely legal play and there was nothing wrong with it. Sure — it was devastating and the whole NFL community and every fan wishes nothing but the best for him, the notion that the players on the field would tone down the physicality is absurd.
Let’s talk the JuJu hit first — to put it bluntly, it was an absolutely brutal hit. JuJu knew exactly what he was doing and honestly this was karma for Burfict. He led with his shoulder and did get some helmet contact but it looks as if that wasn’t intended. A little dirty — yes, just because Burfict wasn’t looking in his direction. The staredown, obviously not very sportsmanlike, was a wild move. To be honest, I loved it. Smith-Schuster knew he was going to be penalized for it and most likely a fine but we’ve seen blocks just as bad as that before. He wanted to make a statement — and he did.
That being said, I don’t think he should be anywhere near Burfict when the two teams meet again but Burfict may actually kill him on the field — but this is the type of action football fans want to see. We don’t want to hear Jon Gruden and Sean McDonough complaining about how this is awful for football, because it’s not.
These two teams absolutely hate each other and I think it’s great. I know a good chunk of the NFL are friends but sometimes it’s fun to watch two teams go out there and try to completely out-muscle the other team. Obviously things happen when that’s the case and things can get out of hand.
Obviously a brutal hit on Antonio Brown from George Iloka — he led with his head and clearly made contact. He was flagged immediately and Brown caught the TD, shook off the hit and came right back in on the next drive. Problem solved. Fine Iloka and move on — as Roethlisberger said, “this is AFC North football.”
The suspensions rained down today, with JuJu and Iloka both getting 1 game. Both were flagged and both should have only been fined. A suspension is a little outrageous — nothing happened after the plays. Sure, JuJu taunted Burfict but to suspend them a game is a little much of a reach. The NFL saw the public pressure and panicked as once again there isn’t any sort of precedent on these issues. This game was great to watch from a neutral perspective and the NFL knows that — watch them to schedule this for primetime again next year.