Merriam-Webster defines bloodbath as “a great slaughter, a notably fierce, violent, or destructive contest or struggle.” That sounds about right. There were three men carried off the field, carted off the field, or otherwise knocked out on Monday night. Ryan Shazier‘s spinal injury was so severe that he was immediately taken to a local hospital. That does not even count Antonio Brown on the receiving end of a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit when scoring late in the game.

Of course, that hit was just a blip on the radar after Ryan Shazier suffered apparent paralysis and was carted off in obvious distress. Vince Williams was seen in tears on the sidelines while Shazier was being tended to. Shazier is a budding NFL star who does it all for a strong Steelers defense. His speed and intelligence allow him to be all over the field and lead his team in tackles, forced fumbles, and even interceptions from the middle linebacker position.

Shazier’s counterpart, Vontaze Burfict, was also violently knocked out of the game by a controversial hit by JuJu Smith-Schuster. As a play was concluding (but not before), Smith-Schuster buried his shoulder into the chest of Burfict. The middle linebacker would not return to the game. Smith-Schuster was flagged twice for both unnecessary roughness and taunting. Jon Gruden was, as always, incredulous.

Burfict has in the past injured both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the former injury occurring in the AFC playoffs which led directly to a 15-yard penalty, ANOTHER 15-yard penalty from Pacman Jones, and a Bengals defeat. His on the field antics are well known, but he was never the aggressor on Monday night and kept his cool until the injury knocked him out of the game. I would be remiss to not mention the feelings from southwestern Pennsylvania that being on the receiving end of a nasty hit was karma for Mr. Burfict. I personally have no time for that mentality and want those hits removed from the game for good.

Joe Mixon, known for his speed, athleticism, and publicly striking a female in college, was also ferociously knocked out of Monday night’s contest. In the words of Trautman from First Blood when asked what would be needed: “a good supply of body bags”.

I was there when James Harrison knocked Colt McCoy out with one of the dirtiest hits I’ve ever seen. He also laid out Mohamed Massaquoi in an equally illegal fashion that crumpled the receiver’s body into an impossibly contorted and limp position. Both hits were the definition of head hunting, intentionally launching his body with intent to injure. Harrison’s on the field flay was an embarrassment, especially when the Steelers had great players like Troy Polamalu who was respected, even feared, but never stooped to headhunting. (Don’t click here)

I think James Harrison is a bad for football. I think Vontaze Burfict is a bad for football. I know for a fact that Joe Mixon is a bad for football in a way that transcends dirty hits. It’s hard to even make jokes or make light of this subject. The NFL has repeatedly embarrassed itself and continues to embarrass itself.

Let’s say for sake of conversation that you knew a coworker punched his girlfriend in the face. It was on camera. There was no dispute over whether or not it was an accident or a misunderstanding. It was an intentional and injurious punch to the head of a young woman. Would you continue to accept that coworker as a colleague or even as a decent human being? As viewers of the NFL, we are expected to just forget about incidents like this and honestly we as an audience are too tired to even keep track. The NFL knows this, and all is forgotten.

In fact, bonus points as a cherry on top of the steaming pile of hot garbage: James Harrison, the hero who hurts men on the field, was also arrested in 2008 for hitting his then-girlfriend. He admitted to police that he broke down their bedroom door, struck her in the face and broke her mobile phone. The argument that led to this incident was in regards to the baptism of his son. Amen.

They were able to scrape the lifeless bodies of injured players off the field for a full 60 minutes and complete the game on Monday Night. And it truly was a hell of a game. Well…unless you were a long-suffering Bengals fan. After going up 17-0 in the first half, the Bengals had all the momentum with 31 seconds left before the break. At this point, it appeared that the Steelers were thinking more about the health of Ryan Shazier than A.J. Green and the Red Rocket tearing them to shreds.

In what was probably the most unheralded but important part of the Steelers’ win, Roethlisberger marched the black and gold down the field for a Chris Boswell field goal to make it 17-3. Points are points, and this seemingly innocuous score would prove to be the difference in the end.

Le’Veon Bell scored one of the strangest touchdowns in football history by dancing past a Bengals defender whose identity will be protected for the safety of his family. What made the play strange was that number 22 turned into a statue as Bell unceremoniously tip-toed down the sidelines. One can imagine that he stopped in order to avoid contact with his fellow defender, but damn. Play through the whistle like your high school coach told you.

A.J. Green scored another unbelievable touchdown which was nullified by Giovani Bernard, one of the Bengals running backs without a criminal past, who held on the play. It’s difficult to pin this play on Bernard who was left one-on-one vs. T.J. Watt whose primary function is discarding running backs en route to pass throwers.

Then Burfict got annihilated. Then Antonio Brown scored a brilliant touchdown…and got annihilated. George Iloka laid the big hit for which he was both flagged and suspended. Actually never mind, they took back the suspension because who cares about brain damage and CTE, am I right fellas?

The Steelers drove the field and kicked a game-winning field goal. The actual football game was interesting, hard fought, and displayed the extremely high talent level and execution of these young men. Everything surrounding the game and the injuries that took place on the field just stunk to high heaven.

If I sound fed up, I am. I played football. I write about football. I love football. My young son loves football. We are not going to stop watching. I wish the people in charge would take these matters seriously. In my opinion, James Harrison and Vontaze Burfict should be out of the league permanently, period. Men like Joe Mixon should not have been allowed to play a down. Period. And suspensions for less egregious, first offense hits like JuJu Smith-Schuster and George Iloka need to be enforced. Period. The NFL is losing its audience for a lot of reasons, and Monday Night was indicative of that unfortunate trend.

Charlie Cairone

Author Charlie Cairone

Charlie is a Pittsburgh native who has been watching, playing, eating, sleeping, regretting, cursing, and not shutting up about football for three decades.

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