During Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered an even bigger loss during the course of the game, as running back Le’Veon Bell was injured while being tackled at the sideline after an eight-yard reception, tearing his MCL and suffering further damage in the process.
Many Steelers players took umbrage with the Bengals defender who made the tackle, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, making his 2015 debut after returning from microfracture knee surgery.
After bringing the runner down six minutes into the second quarter, Burfict got up and ran away from the scene, his arms outstretched in a gesture that many Steelers players, including starting left guard Ramon Foster, took be a celebratory one in response to injuring the All-Pro.
Earlier Yesterday, Foster spoke with The Fan during a weekly radio appearance and echoed the thoughts that he expressed after the game, saying that the film confirmed what he had seen on Sunday.
It seemed like as soon as [Bell] went down, man, dude hopped up, and it was funny – he’s running across the field hitting his head, and you watch everyone actually running up into him, or running towards him. And he’s sprinting across the field excited about the situation. That’s something you don’t do. You don’t celebrate a guy going down…I don’t expect anything less from him.
Reviewing the tape myself, it does seem that Foster’s suspicions are not unfounded. For Burfict, it seemed to be a normal tackle on an eight-yard gain on a first-down play, at first. That is until he released Bell and saw the running back grimace and grab at his knee, after which the linebacker hastened to his feet and ran over to his teammates.
The delayed reaction from Burfict, which was drawn out only after Bell had clutched at his knee, would seem to favor the idea that the reaction was indeed in response to the injury itself, and certainly not the tackle out of bounds on a successful first-down play.
It was a reaction that Foster and his teammates will not soon forget, particularly from Burfict, whom the veteran described as “the type of guy to do certain things like that”; “that type of guy”.
There will be no love lost between Bell’s teammates and the former undrafted free agent the next time these two teams meet. Foster said that “the good thing about the situation is we get to see him again”, adding that “karma comes to get those guys back, and we’ll see him a second time”.
These are not the words typical of a Ramon Foster interview, who is typically as personable, friendly, and laid-back an interview as they come. But the seventh-year guard was clearly set off by what he is convinced was a celebration of an injury to his teammate.
The Bengals, among them Andrew Whitworth, accused the Steelers of hypocrisy after Mike Mitchell actively celebrated a powerful mid-air laying out of Marvin Jones to force an incompletion. But in this case I defer to James Harrison, who years ago drew a distinction between hurting and injuring an opponent. What Mitchell did to Jones was a hurt. Burfict was reacting to a clear injury.