It seems like we are going to be talking about last week’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals game for a long time.
The Steelers won the matchup 28-21 for their second straight win, but the real storyline had to do with dirty plays, which contributed to the ongoing conversation about how well the NFL is upholding its own policy when it comes to dangerous hits.
At the center of this conversation is of course Vontaze Burfict.
As a longtime member of the Bengals, Burfict hates the Steelers. He has a low opinion of the organization and has acted as a head-hunter whenever he’s lined up against Pittsburgh. Last Sunday, he had another questionable hit on star receiver Antonio Brown that did not draw a flag, but did draw a lot of backlash.
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) October 14, 2018
What’s interesting is that even Bengals players can’t always answer to what their starting linebacker is doing.
On Thursday, Tim Benz was interviewing Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward on the WDVE morning show, getting his thoughts on what ensued on the field last Sunday. Heyward claimed that Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins doesn’t understand why Burfict turns into a different animal when he plays the Steelers.
“I remember when we were at the Pro Bowl, talking to Geno Atkins about it,” Heyward said. “And he was just like, ‘I don’t understand it.’ They say Vontaze Burfict is a great guy. But when he plays us, he just likes to turn up.”
Benz then asked Heyward to clarify if Atkins was questioning Burfict’s loose-cannon nature.
“I don’t think he understands it. I don’t think his own teammates understand it,” Heyward said. “Sometimes they are just flabbergasted as to what is going on. I’m not going to put words in Geno’s mouth, but I don’t think some of the players even understand what’s going on. Let’s be honest, who tackles like that any more in this league? That’s poor tackling on any level. If that’s the case, then that’s poor on the Bengals for even teaching that.”
Illegal hits and how the NFL defines and punishes them has been one of the most talked about topics this season. It seems as though there is not any consistency with how the NFL is judging these hits, and if Burfict’s hit on Brown goes unpunished by the league, then there is definitely something terribly wrong with the system.
“Repeat offenders should be fined more or held to a higher standard,” Heyward said. “Everybody has to be held accountable. If you are going to give T.J. Watt a penalty for sticking his pinkie out there on (Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan‘s) ankle, what are you saying? Are you saying (protection) only applies to quarterbacks? Or does it apply to every player?”