- Andy Lyons/Getty
- The Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals Monday night game was marred by injuries and violent hits.
- The Steelers and Bengals seemed to level what some would consider dirty hits on each other multiple times.
- Jon Gruden after the game called some of the plays “disgusting and disturbing.”
The “Monday Night Football” game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals descended into one of the ugliest contests of the NFL season.
While the Steelers pulled out a 23-20 win with a fourth-quarter comeback, the game was marred by a scary injury to Ryan Shazier after a head-first tackle, and then several questionable, illegal, and likely dirty hits.
After the game, ESPN color commentator Jon Gruden called the game “bad for football.” Gruden suggested there would be fines and discipline for some of the hits, saying, “Some of this stuff tonight got out of hand, it was very disgusting and disturbing.”
In the fourth quarter, Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster leveled Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on a block, sending Burfict onto his back. While Burfict laid on the ground, Smith-Schuster stood over him, taunting him, until referees penalized him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Bengals seemed to exact revenge toward the end of the game, with Bengals safety George Iloka going head-to-head with Antonio Brown after the receiver caught a touchdown.
Unreal. Bengals respond with abrutal hit from S George Iloka on Steelers WR Antonio Brown.pic.twitter.com/DoLMgjHuqi
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) December 5, 2017
Of course, both teams have an ugly history as division rivals, but the rivalry most recently reared its head in the 2015 AFC Wild Card game when both teams exchanged ugly shots. Brown was on the receiving end of a particularly brutal shot from Burfict when he caught a pass in the middle of the field, and Burfict dove head first at him, concussing Brown.
After Monday’s game, as Smith-Schuster apologized for taunting and standing over Burfict, Brown repeatedly yelled “karma” over Smith-Schuster’s answers. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, when Brown was asked who the comments were directed to, Brown said: “I ain’t talking about nobody. Karma is karma. Karma is in life. You do the wrong things, you get the wrong things out of it.”
ESPN analyst and former NFL executive Louis Riddick said after the game that players can’t continue to play this way.
“This is what the league doesn’t want and players can’t want,” Riddick said. “This is not the way the game is played any more. It may have been played that way in the 90s. It may have been played that way in the early 2000s. … But the landscape has changed.”
Barring an unforeseen surge in the final four weeks, the Bengals are likely to miss the playoffs, and thus, are unlikely to see the Steelers again this season. But Monday’s game was a reminder that one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries has a tendency to go too far.