The Steelers and Bengals had plenty to say to each other on the field during Pittsburgh’s last-minute, 28-21 win on Sunday at Cincinnati, and the Steelers had more to say on Monday, particularly about a hit on their star wide receiver, Antonio Brown.
Brown, who scored the winning touchdown on a 31-yard pass with 10 seconds left, absorbed what appeared to be an elbow to the head from longtime nemesis Vontaze Burfict. The Cincinnati linebacker been fined and suspended multiple times for hits and tackles that crossed the line from hard play to cheap shots.
It’s time for another suspension, according to Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert.
“That’s pathetic. The NFL has to do something about that,” Gilbert said. “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.”
The NFL is studying Sunday’s blow to head by Burfict and two other plays he was involved in, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The other two plays were hits in which Burfict led with his helmet, Schefter reported.
On the hit on Brown, two other Bengals appeared to have him stopped, then Burfict came in and caught Brown up high with an elbow. No penalty was assessed.
After the game, Pittsburgh wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said the Bengals “were all making threats at me. Dropping f-bombs. Everything. Burfict was out there lying saying I spit on him, which I didn’t.”
Smith-Schuster, in his second season in the NFL, said the Cincinnati defense was “coming after all of us.”
Another Steelers lineman, guard David DeCastro, said receivers should get more protection from officials, not unlike the added emphasis on doing more to keep quarterbacks from getting hurt.
“It’s tough to see AB get hit like that,” he said of Brown. “With all the emphasis on quarterback safety, what about a guy like AB? 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 is no stranger to the spotlight when these two teams play.
Burfict knocked out Brown with a hit to the head in an AFC wild-card game in 2016; Burfict was suspended the first three games of the following season for the hit.
Last season, in the Steelers’ visit to Cincinnati for a December primetime game, Smith-Schuster delivered a brutal hit to Burfict, then stood over him gloating. Smith-Schuster was suspended one game by the NFL.
The teams meet again in Pittsburgh on the last day of the season, Dec. 30, when both could have a lot on the line. Sunday’s result improved the Steelers to 3-2-1 and left the Bengals at 4-2, tied with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North.
—Field Level Media