Vontaze Burfict’s name is going to come up in almost any Bengals-related conversation, especially when it relates to playing the Steelers. On Sunday, he was in the forefront of those conversations again, with the announcers wanting to talk about his history, despite being penalized just once, only his second penalty of the season.
The linebacker was very involved in the game on Sunday, making nine tackles (seven solo) on the day and drawing a penalty on Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert for unnecessary roughness, when he shoved Burfict from behind without even being provoked.
After the game, however, the Steelers were chatty. This trend continued early in the week, with Ben Roethlisberger taking to the CBS Pittsburgh airwaves to speak his mind about the controversial Bengals linebacker. Here’s what he had to say regarding the chatter between the players after Burfict threw him down behind the line of scrimmage, which led to him being penalized for unnecessary roughness
“It’s nothing what you’d expect, it’s actually I talked to him, I don’t remember if he said anything to me,” Roethlisberger said. “I can share it because it’s my show…I said, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for me to tell you exactly what my wife wanted me to tell you if I got a chance. She wanted me to tell you that she’s praying for you.’ That’s what I told him, no joke.”
The quarterback also mentioned the linebacker didn’t say anything back in response. It’s worth mentioning Roethlisberger was laughing as he recounted the story.
On the play in which Burfict was penalized for throwing the quarterback to the ground, Roethlisberger had this to say:
“He just slammed me to the ground, there was so much extracurricular stuff. I mean there was a play people may not even know about. We had a play-action action pass, [Roosevelt] Nix runs to the flat, I step up in the pocket, the ball is out of my hands...and Burfict hits [him] — like, cleans his clock — knocks him to the ground on the sideline, not even close to the play. [It] should’ve been flagged, 15 yards, [fined], I just don’t get why he does some of the stuff, and his teammates don’t get it either, I’ve talked to them.”
I’ve been incredibly adamant about my belief that plays like this should be illegal. The NFL is completely hypocritical in its preaching of player safety and keeping rules like this — that eligible receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage can be knocked to the ground — around. It’s asinine for Roger Goodell and the people in charge of determining the NFL’s rules that this particular ruling, one that has caused many injuries and plenty of controversy, has stuck around.
With that said, this is a legal play by Burfict. Nix became an eligible receiver, and Burfict hit him well within the five yards beyond the line of scrimmage just a fraction of a second after the quarterback released the football.
Most interestingly, however, the quarterback mentioned speaking with some of Burfict’s teammates, even mentioning that they “can’t stand” the way he plays.
“I think they roll their eyes with some of the antics, truthfully,” he said. “I don’t know what [Marvin Lewis is] able and capable of doing [to change the way Burfict plays]. Maybe he’s tried, maybe he hasn’t, I don’t really know, I can’t speak for what they do over there…I know some of their players they just can’t stand it and I know if it was on our team, we’d have to have a talk.”
If that’s the case, the quarterback can start by speaking with Mike Mitchell, who has been compared to Burfict for making many similar questionable plays, including targeting opponents and even twisting ankles. But that’s another story for another day.
Today, the focus is on Roethlisberger, who is claiming he has spoken with, at the very least, multiple Bengals players who are reportedly frustrated with the way Burfict plays. That’s a big deal and it will be interesting to see if any Bengals respond to the rival quarterback’s remarks.
One Bengals player did go out of his way to say he was proud of Burfict after Sunday’s game.
“I’m real proud of Vontaze for how he played,” George Iloka told ESPN after Sunday’s game. “It was composed. I’ve seen a lot of situations where, in previous years, it would have ended differently for all parties. Regardless of how the game went and some fights here and there, I felt like he was composed and just him making that conscious effort, it meant a lot to me and it probably meant a lot to other guys.”
Roethlisberger finished his comments on Burfict with this:
“Our guys are just standing up for our own teammates. We’re not starting anything.”
As a response, I’ll finish my thoughts on the matter with this:
"To the Steelers' credit, they have not retaliated today against Burfict or any of the Bengals"— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) December 18, 2016
Except when Gilbert and DeCastro jumped him