This is the first time since last season in the playoffs that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be seeing Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the field. It is the first time in over a year since Burfict will see Le’Veon Bell on the field, after he was responsible for tearing up his knee and ending his 2015 season.
Burfict, of course, was also responsible for ending Antonio Brown’s 2015 season in that playoff game when the linebacker came from behind the play on an errant pass and struck the All-Pro in the helmet, giving him a concussion that lasted a couple of weeks. He was also caught throwing a knee into Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder, and was fined for a low hit on the quarterback as well.
What does that all mean? The only thing that it can mean, of course. The Bengals, and those who write for the Bengals’ website, are circling the wagons around their player, defending, obfuscating, and deflecting, even redirecting blame, something that we have already seen them try to do earlier this year.
Not only did Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis this time mention Mike Mitchell for the Steelers, who has this year essentially become the poster boy for delivering big hits in a clean capacity, but Geoff Hobson, the team’s primary writer on their website, picked up the argument, accusing him of taking a shot to A.J. Green’s head and concussing Tyler Eifert. Eifert, by the way, was still playing after Mitchell’s hit.
Frankly, this is not the article that I was looking to write, but I found myself pretty disgusted reading this article and the quotes from coaches, and from the author himself, as well as from Burfict, all of whom seem to brush over everything that the linebacker has been responsible for over the years. Too many excuses are being made for inexcusable conduct on the field, even as Hobson glosses over the significance of the fact that “he does have a 575,000 fine this season, but no 15-yard penalties”. Whoop-dee-doo.
For their part, the Steelers players and coaches have tried not to fuel the hostilities heading into this game, hoping that they can just come into the stadium, take care of their own business, and play an actual football game without the extracurriculars. Because, unlike the Bengals, they are actually still playing for something meaningful to the 2016 season.
And that is the same thing that I am hoping to see today. I wouldn’t mind seeing Bell run over Burfict a time or two, as a bonus, but ultimately, I just want this to be a football game free of drama. I don’t want to be reminded of why so many people don’t like Burfict the person, which takes away from the quality of Burfict the football player.
The only thing that must matter today is securing a victory, which will put the Steelers in position to wrap up the AFC North with another win on Christmas Day over the Ravens, at Heinz Field. Anything else is just a distraction from the goal. Including disgust over how the Bengals are handling Burfict’s behavior and past.