Many experts and former players commented on the physical tone which was set in pre-game warm ups between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. You don't have to lean on former players and coaches to understand just how physical this game was, simply take it from the Steelers' starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger took to the airwaves for his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and he talked with Cook and Poni about everything from the Vontaze Burfict hit to his lower leg, to the fact the Bengals were too worried about talking and retaliation than winning the football game.
Ben recounted what he saw from his side of the field when the pre-game scrum took place between Burfict and several members of the Steelers.
"I saw Burfict. I didn't even know it was him, all the way on our side where we were stretching and I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?' Sometimes during those times you talk to maybe a friend that you know on the other team...then I realized it got a little more serious and then my biggest concern from there, I wasn't nearly close to the middle of it or anything like that, my biggest concern was just making sure my linemen, you know, guys that weren't already there, don't come running into the middle of it and try to start something."
The skirmish set the tone for the rest of the game, and although Roethlisberger said the chippy nature of a game usually dies down, it didn't on Sunday.
"Usually when that happens...it usually dies out," Roethlisberger said. "This was as chippy as, quote unquote, kind of dirty, extracurricular stuff throughout the game that I've ever been a part of. There was a lot of stuff going on under piles, a lot of extra pushing, a lot of extra shoving. It was kind of unusual because usually you get out there and there's still a level of respect, even if you despise the other team and you want to beat them so bad, there's still a level of respect and level of professionalism you don't really want other people to get hurt. It was definitely as physical, extracurricular stuff as I've been a part of."
When asked about Bufict's hit on Roethlisberger, the Steelers' franchise quarterback didn't hold back.
"He said, ‘I got pushed into you, my bad.' and the official just kind of nodded like, ‘Yeah, ok.' So, I just went about my day, didn't think anything of it...I turned my phone on afterwards and one of the texts I got from a former player and a friend of mine says, ‘How is this not a fine or a penalty by Burfict?' And he showed me the clip of it. And since then, I have seen the clip, and I don't buy that he was pushed. You know, I think that he definitely was diving in low and going for my legs," Roethlisberger said.
Ultimately, Roethlisberger believes the Steelers were prepared for the game, and the conduct on display from Cincinnati, which had a direct correlation in who left the stadium victorious in Week 14.
"I made the point as I talked to the team and said, ‘You know guys, from every level of sports that I've ever been a part of, if the other team tried to start a fight, it was usually because they were either scared or they didn't think they could hang with you.' And so, throughout that game as they were trying to pick fights and do extracurricular stuff, it kind of let us all know that, you know what, we just got to play our game, don't get caught up in the extra stuff, don't get yourself in trouble."
The Steelers were able to stay out of trouble, but they did more than that. They were able to delay the Bengals clinching the AFC North and a playoff spot, all while helping their cause as they attempt to make the postseason in back-to-back seasons.