PITTSBURGH — Multiple Pittsburgh Steelers players spoke out against Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for his elbow to Antonio Brown‘s head in the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s 28-21 win on Sunday.
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert said Burfict should be suspended for the play.
“That’s pathetic. The NFL has to do something about that,” Gilbert said. “A guy like that, going out there intentionally trying to hurt people, there’s no need for that kind of playing in this league. It’s sad. One of these days he’ll grow up.”
According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL is reviewing three plays that Burfict was involved during the game to determine the appropriate level of discipline. Those three plays are his elbow on Brown, and two plays in the second half in which he led with his helmet.
Brown caught a pass over the middle and was tackled by two Bengals defenders when Burfict flew in with his right elbow, connecting with Brown’s upper body/head area. Brown was down on the turf for a few seconds and got evaluated by the team on the sideline before re-entering the game.
Brown finished with a 31-yard, game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.
After the game, Brown called the play a “nasty hit.”
“Thank God I was able to come back in the game to finish the game,” he said.
Burfict has a long history of egregious hits, fines and suspensions since entering the league in 2012. He served a four-game suspension to start the 2018 season for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Burfict hasn’t played more than 11 games in a year since 2013.
During the 2015 season, Burfict had a hand in injuring the Steelers’ three best offensive players — Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger — with questionable play.
The league has emphasized protecting quarterbacks with revised roughing the passer calls, but guard David DeCastro would like to see receivers protected as well.
“It’s tough to see AB get hit like that,” he said. “With all the emphasis on quarterback safety, what about a guy like AB: A superstar he is in this league, how much money he’s getting paid, how much he means to this team? A cheap shot like that, I thought was unnecessary. … If they want to talk about making this game safer, maybe they will do something. Or maybe they will put in a new rule that no one is going to call when it matters. Maybe it’s a PR stunt.”
Steelers players consistently praise Burfict’s ability as a player, but wish he would tone down the viciousness.
“He’s hurting his team,” Gilbert said. “It could have been a costly penalty right there. Who knows? He should be suspended for that hit. We’ll see. But he’s too good of a football player to be missing games like that.”