I don’t have much (by my standards) to say about the Bengals/Steelers Wild Card games. I don’t enjoy any time we play the Steelers not because I think they are better, but because we are like a terrible relationship: we bring out the worst in one another. We embarrassed ourselves and so did they.
I will say I admired how, for three quarters, my boys kept their composure while I, as a fan, was losing my mind on some of the officiating decisions. I would never make a good football player because I would be ten times worse than Vontaze Burfict. If I saw my teammate get his hair pulled by an opposing coach, it would get me angry. Angrier than I was before the game over the fact Vince Williams posted a death threat against me on Instagram and went unpunished.
When Martavis Bryant made an impressively acrobatic attempt to catch a ball but in fact didn’t and still got the TD anyways, I would be more than a touch perturbed, but what is a catch and isn’t a catch is par for the course these days.
And then, when Ryan Shazier very openly, clearly, and intentionally came after Giovanni Bernard to slam his helmet into his, knocking Bernard unconscious…That is when I would snap and probably start screaming expletives at every human in sight. When I saw there would be no flag on the play, you would see the white hot angry version of Jessica only my family members get to see because they are required to unconditionally love me.
When Mike Tomlin callously tossed in the challenge flag because getting away with a helmet-to-helmet hit wasn’t enough, he wanted credit for the fumble, I would question how important football is to him that you are going to put your illegally obtained fumble ahead of the health of a person.
Then, after I got flagged for a play that was against the rules, but from every angle seemed mostly unintentional, as I led with my shoulder and came in relatively low, I would most definitely not be surprised to see the best friend I have on the team get in the face of the coach who was on the turf even though it is explicitly against the rules and tell him to get the hell off the field. I would understand my reputation merits me getting calls like this more than most players and that the flag was deserved because it is important . I would feel guilty that I had hurt another person and be concerned about Brown. I am not sure if Vontaze was…and that concerns me.
So yeah, I would be playing with blood in my eyes and white hot anger because I spent over two hours watching our team be berated, injured intentionally, and had the refs do effectively nothing to punish the other team who, bare minimum, was 50 percent of the problem.
I know the passion of Burfict and Pacman can negatively effect us, as it did last night (but let’s be real, this is all Jeremy Hill’s fault). But the thing is, I wish I was a good enough person to say I wouldn’t be heated and fired up, but I was watching in a bar six hours away and barely containing my anger, that I know that on the field I would have some words for people.
Burfict, given his history, probably deserves a hefty fine for the hit. A fine that should be relatively equal in number to whatever Shazier gets fined for his blatantly illegal hit. And given Burfict’s history, if there are other things that happened on the field that Burfict did that is merited, perhaps a suspension is in order. I think Pacman is a little crazy to say that Brown “flopped” on that play, though I have seen Brown pull some theatrics along those lines in the past and that is why I have not and never will be a fan of Antonio Brown.
But that is neither here nor there. Every team in the NFL had a game this season in which some stupid ruling lost them a game. That is how it works in the NFL, unfortunately. So now the game is over, I won’t complain about the officiating, I will simply look ahead to next year and hope 28 is the number of years the drought ends.
And I want to be clear I don’t condone Burfict’s behavior, but I can empathize with him in a frustration that, even as a viewer I found unnerving beyond words. He deserves punishment for his behavior. But like I said, if Shazier doesn’t get a hefty fine too, I will tell you this–it will be even worse the next time these two teams play.
So, while last year I wished our team would take a break from the playoffs, next season I just want a break from the Steelers. You really only see behavior like this from both teams when they play, that two games in a season is just not a good idea. The only way to keep Bernard safe and Brown safe and everyone else safe is to take some time, calm down, and let cooler heads prevail in 2017.