Is Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict currently the most-hated player in the AFC North, even more so that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison? While that might very well be the case, the latter doesn’t believe the on-the-field actions of the former represent a player who is out of control.
“Everybody calculates what they do,” Harrison said Wednesday according to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com. “To some people it may look out of control, but to know individual people and to see individual plays that they do or how they play certain plays, you can see what’s going through their head, especially if you understand what’s going through their head.
“It’s not – I don’t think anybody’s out of control is what I’m saying.”
Of any player currently on the Steelers roster, Harrison probably knows Burfict the best being as the two played together a few years ago in Cincinnati. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of the question to suggest that Burfict models himself after Harrison to some degree. Like Harrison, Burfict has already incurred his fair share of fines in addition to being a lightning rod for criticism for some of his questionable hits.
Intimidation and repetition is a huge part of the game of football and if somebody has to be the bad guy on a team, Burfict doesn’t appear to mind playing that role. Additionally, Harrison doesn’t view his former teammate as one who can be bullied back.
“If he’s taking the same approach that we’re taking, I don’t think so,” Harrison said. “Because when it comes down to it I can say and taunt you with whatever I want to, but at the end of the day it’s about what the scoreboard says when the clock ticks down to zero at the end of four quarters.”
In the last meeting between the Steelers and Bengals, Burfict instigated a pregame scuffle between the two teams by wandering over to Pittsburgh’s side of the field during warmups to give linebacker Vince Williams a piece of his mind for comments he made on Twitter after the first meeting between the two teams. The Bengals linebacker then proceeded to be involved in a few more in-game scuffles and even attempted to knock Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of the game in the first half with a cheap shop below the knees that he was later fined for even though he wasn’t penalized on the play.
I suspect Burfict will once again try to get underneath the skin of several Steelers players prior to Saturday’s kickoff as there’s no reason to think otherwise as it is who he is as a player. While the Steelers certainly can’t let Burfict bully them around on Saturday and run around unpoliced, they also can’t let his actions result in them taking stupid penalties that alter the course of the game, as that’s exactly what the Bengals linebacker is hoping for with his calculated, yet thug-like play.