There is understandably a lot of talk heading into this game for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals about the last game that these two teams played against one another. One of the most catastrophic things I’ve seen in recent memory within an NFL game occurred between the white lines of Paul Brown Stadium when Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a severe spinal injury.
While he continues to make his recovery, to the point at which he is able to walk along the sideline with his teammates during the game, Shazier remains far removed from taking the field, sitting on the Physically Unable to Perform List, a grace that he has simply made the progress that he has now.
Though he was injured in the process of making a tackle early in the first quarter, that wasn’t evident to all of his teammates, especially his fellow defenders, who may not have had a clear view of what occurred while they were busy carrying out their assignments.
Outside linebacker Bud Dupree admitted as much this past week to Will Graves, perhaps against his better judgement, and certainly against the collective better judgement. He told the Associated Press reporter that he and Vince Williams thought Shazier was injured on a blindside block and that they were looking to “exact revenge” during the first half of the game.
Talking to Bud Dupree today about returning to Cincy after the weirdness/tragicness/awfulness of last visit, he shared this: said he and Vince W weren’t sure how Shazier was hurt. Thought he was hit blindside. Spent rest of 1H trying to exact revenge. Didn’t see replay till half.
— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) October 10, 2018
It was only at halftime that they got the opportunity to see a replay of Shazier’s injury, at which point it became clear what actually happened, and that it was nobody’s fault. While he probably should not have admitted what he did, however, the emotion felt given the circumstances is somewhat more understandable.
The Steelers’ rivalry with the Bengals has become the most heated, contentious, and nasty in all of the National Football League over the course of the past few years. Bengals defenders have injured, sidelined, or ended the seasons of some of Pittsburgh’s most important offensive players with questionable hits, and the Steelers—even Shazier himself—are not innocent in all this, either.
The bad blood was surely palpable, and when they thought that it reached such a point that one of their own was critically injured because of it, I can imagine that things quickly became about something more than a game.
That doesn’t excuse their decision, nor their ignorance in being unable to find out that Shazier’s injury was nobody’s fault. They surely could have asked somebody who saw it happen. Freelancing on defense is bad enough. Vigilantism is just stupid.
Now, I don’t know on what plays they might be accused of going after a Bengals player in an extracurricular way during the remainder of that first half, but at least everybody else made it off the field that day.