They met again in the playoffs that season at Paul Brown Stadium, and Burfict's hit to Brown's head in the closing seconds moved the Steelers in range for a field goal and an 18-16 win.
The NFL responded by suspending Steelers receiver JuJu Schuster-Smith and Bengals safety George Iloka for one game each on Tuesday, and fines for other players are expected later in the week. Mitchell also spoke on that and praised Iloka, while informing Steelers fans not to attack him.
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster has been condemned by National Football League fans for a heartless reaction to an opponent's serious injury. He struck Brown square in the head as he caught a game-tying touchdown pass, though Brown was uninjured. There's a thin line between a legal and illegal hit, but Smith-Schuster straddled it just enough to be get a suspension. All three plays were similar in nature - crushing hits to the head or neck area that could have (or did) result in serious injury - but different in circumstance, intent and execution.
Both players will appeal, ESPN reported.
Getty Images SHARE
After the game, Bell tweeted video of Burfict's kick and said: "man dude gotta go man. that's not football AT ALL!" The receiver earned another penalty for taunting after standing over the defender. "I was trying to get a big block for Le'Veon Bell for him to get upfield", Smith-Schuster said. The fact that he stood over him.
"Oftentimes, plays like that are teachable moments and when you look at it, you have an opportunity to look at ways that things could be safer and things like that", Tomlin said. "I hope he's OK and I hope he gets better".
Ioka was suspended for a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the end zone during the fourth quarter, when Brown was deemed to be a defenseless receiver. The Bengals were responsible for 13 flags and 173 of those yards. Asked if any plays from the Bengals bothered him, he said he was focused on "the nature in which [his players] perform" and trusts Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis to do the same.