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The Steelers won, but everyone lost Saturday night

Lost in the WWE event at Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night was a wildcard-round playoff game between a team that fought through adversity to get there and a dirty team that just likes to fight.

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Sometimes, a win makes you feel great, because your team fought hard and earned it. Sometimes, you feel a little sheepish, because your guys got away with a win they never should have had.

Then there are those unsettling wins. Not because they didn't fight hard and earn the win, but because the other team's players, fans or coaches behaved so poorly that you remain angry the next morning.

Good morning, Cincinnati. Maybe that should have been, "Good morning, Vietnam" instead, because that felt more like a war zone than a football game Saturday night.

Why? Because almost everyone in black and orange was out of control. Despite maintaining sanity for most of three quarters, things started to unravel when Ryan Shazier (legally) separated Giovani Bernard from the ball. Running back Jeremy Hill and Official League Moron linebacker Vontaze Burfict were incensed over the hit that left Bernard concussed and unconscious, but it was completely within the rules. The moment Bernard caught the ball and then turned upfield, he became an unprotected runner. Sure, Shazier's hit was violent -- but it's football. It's a violent game. Maybe next year that hit will be illegal, too. It wouldn't surprise me, but only because there have been a number of such hits that have been deemed legal this year which left players in the league's concussion protocol.

But don't tell Hill and Burfict the hit was legal. It was reported that Burfict was "out of control" on the sideline after the hit. That became obvious in the game, too, as the rate at which he began jawing and pushing after plays increased exponentially afterward.

That's not to say they had no reason to be emotional. One of their team's rising stars was done for the night because of the hit. It's understandable to be upset by that. But for a cheap-shot artist like Burfict -- and let's be honest here, he has elevated thuggish behavior and dirty play to an art form -- to be incensed to the point of outburst about a hit that falls perfectly within the legality of the NFL rules is a sign of his continuing lack of maturity.

But it just went downhill from there.

I'll be the first to tell anyone that the hit on Ben Roethlisberger that sent him to the locker room for x-rays was perfectly legal. I have no doubt that Burfict wanted to drive him into the ground as hard as he could, because that's just what Burfict does. He's out to injure, especially against the Steelers, who have clearly frustrated him and his team. But it was as clean and textbook of a tackle as you will see.

Here, though, is where things started to get really ugly, as fans proceeded to cheer Roethlisberger's injury, and even threw cans and bottles at him as he was carted to the locker room. Classy, Cincinnati. Real classy.

And then Burfict looked to be his team's unlikely savior, with what appeared to be the game-clinching interception. Nevermind the fact that the Bengals should have been pushed back five yards after the interception for a delay of game infraction, when Burfict took the ball and ran to the opposite end of the field and down the tunnel with it. It was an emotional moment, so I understand the celebration, despite it being a violation of the rules.

Without delay, though, karma sucker-punched the Bengals, then spat on their collective, prone carcass.

Jeremy Hill fumbled on what should have been a routine, time-or-timeout-killing play, and the ball was recovered by the Steelers. After marching down the field, but expending all three timeouts, a throw over the middle to Antonio Brown on first down bounced off his fingertips. A heartbeat later, Brown was nearly decapitated by Burfict. In one ill-conceived decision (of many), the linebacker gave the Steelers 15 yards and a new set of downs, but knocked the Steelers' team MVP out of the game.

The differences between this hit and the one that sent Bernard to the showers earlier, though, are two-fold (at least). First, this hit was a blind-side hit, and was nothing but shoulder to head. And second, Brown was, by rule, a defenseless receiver. He had no opportunity to protect himself. Brown had made no so-called "football move". He was illegally hit in the head, plain and simple. There is no wiggle room in the rules for that situation. Bernard made the decision to try to gain additional yardage and turned up the field, in control of his body. Brown was still regaining control of his body and didn't even possess the ball. Had Burfict hit him in the shoulder -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- the Steelers still would have been outside of field-goal range with seconds remaining and no timeouts. But Burfict's gonna Burfict, and the Bengals are going to bungle. If anyone is to blame, it's Marvin Lewis, for constantly tolerating his out-of-control linebacker's volatile temper, immaturity and selfishness.

Then, to put the cherry on top, Adam Jones -- himself known for immature decisions and legal issues -- pushes an official, gets an additional 15 yards for it, gives the Steelers an easy, chip-shot field goal for the win, and then proceeds to post an expletive-filled rant about the officials. He also accused Brown of "flopping" on the hit, despite replays showing him unconscious as he fell to the ground.

Top-notch class again, Cincinnati.

The Steelers won, and Burfict is likely facing a massive fine and a multi-game suspension. Jones will probably be fined, too, and let's not forget Wallace Gilberry, who shoved Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter during the same sequence. Even Reggie Nelson could be fined for shoving offensive line coach Mike Munchak earlier in the game. Munchak will likely be fined, too, for pulling Nelson's hair. Porter could be fined for jawing with several Bengals before Gilberry's shove.

As unbelievable as it is, this game may exceed the $140,000 in fines from the December meeting of the teams. Henceforth, these games should be referred to as the NFL Multiple-Charity Benefit Football Games, considering all funds from fines are given to various charitable causes.

Possibly the worst part of all is this would likely have been a moot point had the officials not been so quick on the whistle when Bernard fumbled late in the third quarter. Shazier scooped up the loose ball and had nothing but daylight in front of him for what would have made the score 21-0, pending the extra point or two-point conversion attempt.

In the end the Steelers won, and I'm thrilled about it. But this game left me angry, nonetheless. And if Burfict doesn't sit out at least the first two games of the 2016 season, that anger will carry over into September.

Here's hoping that, at the very least, these two teams learn a little something from this contest. Let's hope Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and the NFL also learn a few things about Burfict, and finally do something about him going forward. Otherwise, he's just going to continue screwing up his team's chances at finally being truly successful.

Hmm...on second thought, maybe we shouldn't be angry with him. Perhaps we should be thanking him.