clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Steelers and Bengals play an ‘old school’ brand of football, unfortunately in the modern NFL

New, comments

It took all of 60 minutes for one team to prevail. But during those moments, both the Steelers and Bengals found time to punch each other to the point of oblivion. Old School football at its best.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Slobberknocker.

Donnybrook.

Barney.

A quick check of Webster's dictionary (who am I kidding, I used Google since this isn't 1984) for the words needed to properly describe the Monday Night battle between old rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, didn't offer anything that hasn't been used in the past.

You can't come away from the Steelers 23-20, come-from-behind, game-winning-field-goal-at-the-gun win without thinking this was old-school football. The punishing hits on both sides. The mountain of yellow laundry that littered the turf at Paul Brown Stadium. Players being carted off the field.

Yep, somewhere in some empty, isolated farmland in Pennsylvania, Jack Lambert smiles.

There’s nothing more that can be said about the brutality that unfolded between a near-capacity crowd along the banks of the Ohio River. No less than two players were taken from the field via medical cart. Of greatest concern was the injury suffered by Steelers LB Ryan Shazier early in the first quarter.

I've seen my share of injuries both live and on TV over the years. At first, like many may have thought, when Shazier made what appeared to be a routine hit on Bengals rookie WR Josh Malone, he reached for his lower back as he fell to the field. After team doctors evaluated him, Shazier was taken to a Cincinnati hospital for a CT Scan and MRI.

This would serve as the opening act, as the night was still young. Over the course of action, the penalties began to mount for the host Bengals. In all, the club would set a team record collecting 179 yards in penalties.

The game's final 7:10 would only solidify how hard hitting and, at times, ugly this rivalry is.

As the Steelers were down 20-13, they began to muster a drive to tie the game. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught Vontaze Burfict with his head down on a pass to Le'Veon Bell. As the linebacker pursued Bell on the play, Smith-Schuster destroyed Burfict with a clean block.

If it were only that simple, and not 2017.

After laying out the trash talking linebacker, the rookie then stood over Burfict as he lay motionless. Smith-Schuster told reporters that he "messed up" with the taunting of Burfict, because it cost his team 15 yards.

It was just a few minutes later on the same drive that Cincinnati would seek some payback. It came in the form of a cheap-shot from George Iloka, who delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown as he hauled in a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the end-zone, tying the game at 20-20.

Brown told reporters after the game, “The guy just left his feet and hit me in the head. Karma for him too. Karma.” said AB, referring to the Burfict hit from the same series.

With all the bad press the league has seen over CTE, you know these guys are probably facing fines and Smith-Schuster has already been suspended for the Week 14 game vs. the Ravens. But don't believe me—go watch the Rob Gronkowski 'people's elbow' from Sunday. There’s no room for dirty play.

But would it be AFC North football without it?

We all know the answer to that question.

When five of nine personal-foul penalties come in the final 15 minutes of a game, you know it’s gone past the point of physical play.

When one team sets a franchise record for penalty yards in a 60-minute game, you know it’s gone past the point of not liking each other.

This is AFC North football. For all the beauty of the game and what it presents at times, the simple nature of the sport is violent. There’s no getting around it. There can be no denying it. You can’t dress up a pig and think it’s not a pig.

This one will be talked about like many others between the two teams. And for all its warts, it was worth the late night wait to watch it unfold.

Old school football...

In his fourth season of providing commentary and opinion on the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Phillips has been a member of the sports media for over 20 years, covering everything from all things Pittsburgh, to national sports. You could follow JP on Twitter, but he’s not on it.