Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been the subject of much criticism regarding the illegal blindside block he put on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in Monday’s game.
The incident in question happened in the fourth quarter of the AFC North matchup, when Smith-Schuster attempted to block for Le’Veon Bell, who was trying to stretch a short pass into a sizeable gain to move the chains.
Bell was met by Burfict, who eyed the Steelers running back as he prepared to make contact with him. Smith-Schuster, however, came flying in with a blindside block, catching Burfict off guard and sending him to the turf. On top of that, Smith-Schuster appeared to taunt Burfict by standing over him afterward, which resulted in him getting penalized for both unnecessary roughness and taunting.
Burfict, however, remained down on the field for awhile and was eventually carted off.
Smith-Schuster did apologize for taunting Burfict after the game, and agreed that the block was illegal (via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). He also claimed that he didn’t know who it was on the receiving end, directly addressing those who believed he was targeting Burfict.
Furthermore, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that Smith-Schuster should not have stood over Burfict to taunt him after the game.
The Bengals, however, were a bit more direct in addressing how they felt about the illegal block. Burfict himself was said to be “livid” afterward, and teammate Will Jackson said the officials should’ve ejected Smith-Schuster from the game (via Jay Morrison of Cox Media Group). The Bengals cornerback also added that if Burfict had been the player to deliver the hit, he would’ve been ejected for it, in speaking to the media after the game.
Unfortunately, the cheap shot on Burfict wasn’t the only one in the divisional matchup between these two rivals, which featured a number of brutal hits. Bengals safety George Iloka put a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown after he hauled in a touchdown catch to tie the game at 20-20.
It will be interesting to see how the league views these hits, and if any players are suspended as a result.