Ugly ‘Head Shots’ Exchanged in Steelers-Bengals MNF Game
It got nasty in Monday night's 23-20 come-from-behind win for the Steelers over the Bengals.
I don't mind when teams don't like each other, I actually prefer it. But, this bitter AFC North rivalry got ugly and became tough to watch. One player left the stadium in an ambulance, one left the field on a stretcher and the game-tying touchdown-grab was made despite a dangerous helmet-to-helmet blow.
The first and most serious injury of the night was suffered by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who lost feeling in the lower half of his body while making a tackle in the first half. No penalty was assessed on Cincinnati, and rightfully so. Shazier lowered his head and made the tackle with his head down. He appeared to jam his neck as his head collided with the backside of the receiver. Shazier immediately grabbed for his back and rolled over, but then seemed to be unable to move his legs.
Reports Tuesday said Shazier was improving but that he would be undergoing surgery.
Update: ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that Shazier would not require surgery:
Shazier's injury will not require surgery at this time, and he will stay overnight to continue evaluations with the hopes of returning to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the team announced.
Steelers linebacker Vince Williams told ESPN that Shazier, as he was being carted off the field, told Williams he could feel his extremities and that he would be OK.
As a fan, and surely to his fellow players, this was scary to see. It appears the real culprit on this particular play was his tackling technique, not a 'head shot' from a opponent which is often called 'targeting' on the college level.
However, two other plays were particularly disturbing considering everyone had just witnessed Shazier's potentially life-altering injury. And, both were exactly the kinds of plays the NFL has explicitly banned.
Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith Schuster was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a crack-back block in which he clearly targeted the head and neck of Vontaze Burfict. He then stood over and taunted Burfict. Burfict, himself, has been penalized and fined for similar plays in the past, including this play last year against Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown in the playoffs.
After Monday's game, Brown indicated Shuster's hit on Burfict was 'karma', likely referring to Burfict's play last year.
Then, on Brown's game-tying TD catch, Bengals defender George Iloka delivered a blatant head-shot to the defenseless Brown. Brown held on for the touchdown and seemed unfazed by the brutal hit as two officials immediately threw penalty flags.
Not only does the league not want to see this, I can't image fans do either. We'll see what action the league takes this week to address the dangerous plays we witnessed on Monday night.