NFL

The Curious Case of Burfict and the Steelers

The curious Case of Burfict and the Steelers


 

    Here we are on a normal Monday evening getting ready for a rough and tough AFC North rivalry game. This isn’t unlike normal weekends/Monday’s for me. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio (technically Painesville, but I forgive you if you’ve never heard of it). Growing up an avid fan of all Cleveland and Atlanta sports teams, I have seen my fair share of these rivalry games. These are the most intense, hard-hitting, pure disdain for each other rivalries in all of football. It’s whay makes the matchups “must see tv”. One of the big things is Paul Brown. He was the founder and first coach of the Browns, before moving to become the founder and first coach of the Bengals back during the AFL-NFL Merger. This created a tense relationship between these two teams at the very founding of the division (known as the AFC central at the time). The Steelers are another founding member of this division (and only team with no connection to a Brown owner/founder). All three of these teams have shared the division since it’s inception in 1970 (minus the few years Cleveland had no team). That move also brought about a new rival (Baltimore Ravens) as former Browns owner Art Modell. This move got so ugly that the fans in the Dawg Pound (Cleveland Municipal Stadium) that they had to run offensive plays on the opposite side of the field. All this is to say that these rivalries are more than just football teams in the same division. These teams have a connection off the field that has built a major rivalry not only among players competing for wins, but fans and entire organizations despise the leaders of the rival ) organizations. However, I am not writing this to give you a history lesson, this is just to set a better scene on some of the underlying hate between these clubs.

     As I sat and watched the kick off to Monday night football, I couldn’t help but find myself asking if this game would get ugly. The bad blood is there, here are two organizations who have always rode the boarder of dirty and playing hard. Then Shazier went down. The whole stadium got silent. Hell, everyone watching was some what shook up by the potential extent of the injury and how it could possibly affect Shazier for the rest of his life. After seeing that, I thought there was no way this would get overly chippy and dirty. There is no way after watching Shazier go down with a very serious injury that these guys would try to kill each other…. I forgot what division I was watching and which two teams were playing. This hate is bigger than one game or one play. However, with every cheap shot dealt in this series, it’s one more layer on the (almost) 50 year cake. JuJu Smith-Schuster laid what was an obvious cheap shot

If that wasn’t good enough he then added insult to injury by standing over him. It’s undoubetdly cheap as Schuster clearly looks for a targets Burfict. The smarter block is on Kirkpatrick which leaves Bell with open field. He however clearly ignores his blocking assignment to try and lay a cheap shot on Burfict. In fact, it’s so obvious it was what he intended to do the whole time that I begin to wonder if it wasn’t scripted into the gameplan by the players. It makes it more credible hearing Antonio Brown yelling “Karma” in the background immediately after the game in this interview, and then watch his demeanor in his interview. As a fan watching this rivalry for decades, I would not put this past the Steelers. I understand it is Burfict, and his history is as dirty as a player comes. That argument, however, as a way to justify the actions is as bad as the action itself. Burfict may not be an angel, but neither are the Steelers. The Steelers year after year seem to get a pass on being one of the dirtier teams in the league. This isn’t just this series. Want some examples?
Here’s Tomlin interfering with a kick off return:

Here’s Ben Rothlisberger trying to twist a players ankle on the ground:

Here’s Mike Mitchell trying to tear Alex Smiths knee:

Here’s Shazier launching his head into Bernard unnecessarily:

Here’s Guard Ramon Foster diving into a guys legs for no reason:

These are all current Steelers players. I didn’t repeat a player. I also avoided known Steeler’s dirty hitters like James Harrison or Hines Ward. To be very clear, this isn’t meant to be a bash of the Steelers. I have loved watching this hard nosed rivalry for years. As the game changes and we learn more, we know this style we loved can’t last forever. Ultimately, like it or not, it’s coming to an end. Some traditions just die harder than others.

That leads me to the curious case of Burfict and the Steelers. How have the Steelers become viewed as a team who is just playing tough and hard, yet Burfict is viewed as a guy only trying to hurt players? They both play with unapologetic passion, 110% of the time. The culture of the two is at its core no different, maybe it’s our perception that is…


“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. Our vulgar perception is not concerned with anything other than vulgar phenomena. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. No two people see the external world in exactly the same way.” – Sleepbox

 

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