There is no denying the talent Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict possesses. From a strictly performance standpoint, Burfict is one of the most talented linebackers in the game. But there is something which separates him from the rest of the talent at the position across the NFL.
The cheap shots.
The trash talk.
The malicious activity after the whistle.
For all the adjectives to describe Burfict as a quality player on the field, there are just as many to describe him as being a complete mess between the whistle.
After the Steelers’ 28-21 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, Ben Roethlisberger, and teammates, told some very telling, yet not surprising, stories about Burfict and his actions on the field.
“He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next,’ ” Roethlisberger told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “How do you allow that stuff?”
Roethlisberger would go on and talk about what happened between the two after Roethlisberger’s would-be touchdown scoring quarterback sneak resulted in a nullified play, due to a timeout, but the two had a lengthy chat after the play.
“After I did the quarterback sneak that they called back, he got in my face. I said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s good to have you back out here [after Burfict’s four-game suspension to start the season].’ He got all feisty and wanted to fight.”
In the playoffs in 2016, Roethlisberger did something similar by telling Burfict his wife was praying for him.
“I told him that my wife was praying for him,” Roethlisberger said. “He didn’t like that, either. He doesn’t like anything.”
Roethlisberger wasn’t alone with the tales from Sunday’s game. Others chimed in as well.
“Burfict is a really good football player and I think everybody in this locker room has respect for what he can do on the field,” Alejandro Villanueva said. “That hit on A.B, it’s unnecessary. It’s bad for the game. It’s hurting the National Football League. It’s hurting fans that are deciding if they want to let their kids play football. It’s injuring players in the NFL that are going to have consequences after football. I think there’s no place for that behavior. For him to come out and continue to talk and continue to make this game something more than a football game, it’s very unfortunate.”
“They were all making threats on me,” JuJu Smith-Schuster said. “Burfict was out there lying, saying I spit on him, which I didn’t …
“This was the most physical game I’ve been in. Their defense was coming after all of us. You could just see it with the talking, the pushing and shoving, the tackling, the extra stuff.”
Ultimately, the Steelers got the last laugh by getting the ball back with just over a minute left in the game, driving down the field and punching the football in to win.
It was the ultimate payback for all of Burfict’s antics throughout the game.
“It was one of those things on the sideline before I went out, I told the guys, ‘This is what legacies are made of for all of us. Let’s take care of business.’
“That’s what makes it fun.” Roethlisberger said.
It will be interesting to see if the league office has anything to say about Burfict’s play, and whether he may face disciplinary actions as a repeat offender of the rules. However, the Steelers now have bigger fish to fry. After the bye week the team finishes up their division play with games against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field, and a trip to M&T Bank Stadium to play the Baltimore Ravens.
The next time the Steelers and Bengals will lock horns will be in Week 17 to cap off the regular season. A lot can change between now and then, for both teams as well as Mr. Burfict.