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Two players carted off, two others suspended, many fines to follow. One of the NFL’s nastiest rivalries set new lows in prime time Monday, forcing fans to avert their eyes.
What’s to be done about this long-running animosity between the Steelers and Bengals? The questions was raised in the aftermath of a game so brutal that it made viewers cringe. Pittsburgh (10-2) rallied for a 23-20 victory at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night, its sixth straight win over the Bengals (5-7).
The teams combined for 239 penalty yards and five personal fouls, with Cincinnati flagged 13 times for a club-record 173 yards.
What it'll be remembered for, though, is how it felt more like a street brawl at times. The NFL responded by suspending Steelers receiver JuJu Schuster-Smith and Bengals safety George Iloka for one game each Tuesday, and fines for other players are expected later in the week.
‘‘I'll acknowledge there were some unfortunate things in that game that we don’t need in our game — by both sides,’’ Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict — a focal point for much of the animosity — left the field on a cart with a concussion after Schuster-Smith leveled him with a blindside hit. The receiver then stood over the fallen linebacker to taunt him.
As Schuster-Smith apologized for taunting after the game, receiver Antonio Brown yelled: ‘‘Karma! It’s called karma!’’
The NFL’s letter to Schuster-Smith informing him of the suspension said the egregious hit and the taunting ‘‘fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.’’
Iloka hit Brown in the head after his touchdown catch tied the game in the fourth quarter. Brown wasn’t hurt, but the NFL suspended the Bengals safety for the type of flagrant hit that has ‘‘no place in our game.’’
One play that had no ill intent had te night’s scariest moment. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will remain in a Cincinnati hospital until at least Wednesday to undergo further testing on a spinal injury suffered in the first quarter.
Shazier left Paul Brown Stadium on a stretcher less than four minutes into the game. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton hit Josh Malone for a short 3-yard gain, with Shazier hitting Malone square in the back. Shazier, in his fourth season, led with his head while making the tackle. The 25-year-old All-Pro immediately rolled over onto his back, raising his hands in the air while his legs went limp.
Shazier underwent extensive testing overnight, with the team saying his injury did not require surgery ‘‘at this time.’’
While the severity of the injury will remain unknown until the swelling subsides, the relentlessly upbeat Shazier offered a bit of hope Tuesday evening.
‘‘Thank you for the prayers,’’ Shazier tweeted. ‘‘Your support is uplifting to me and my family. #SHALIEVE’’
The Steelers had hoped Shazier would be able to return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The timetable has been pushed back at least 24 to 48 hours. He will remain at University of Cincinnati Medical Center under the care of neurosurgeons David Okonwko and Joseph Cheng. Shazier is expected to be transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital later in the week.
While Shazier stayed in Cincinnati surrounded by family and his medical team, his team tried to find a way forward.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert, and team president Art Rooney II visited Shazier before heading back to Pittsburgh. Tomlin called their conversation ‘‘normal’’ and that Shazier was concerned about the well-being of the rest of the team, including good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams.
Pittsburgh appeared to spend much of the first half in a daze following Shazier’s exit, falling behind by 17 points before rallying to win their seventh straight on Chris Boswell’s field goal on the final snap, culminating more than three hours of occasionally brutal play.
The Bills placed wide receiver Jordan Matthews and defensive end Shaq Lawson on injured reserve, ending their seasons.
Matthews was acquired in a preseason trade with Philadelphia and was expected to become one of Buffalo’s top options in the passing game following the trade of Sammy Watkins.
However, Matthews struggled with injuries throughout his time in Buffalo. Shortly after his arrival, Matthews fractured his sternum. He broke his thumb in a Week 4 win over the Falcons and has spent much of the past month dealing with a knee injury, which ended his season.
Matthews finished the season with 25 receptions for 282 yards and one touchdown. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this spring.
Lawson, Buffalo’s first-round pick from 2016, took on a starting role but struggled with inconsistent play. He finished with 33 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. Lawson injured an ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots; he also dealt with a groin injury earlier this season.
The Broncos placed defensive end Derek Wolfe on season-ending injured reserve with a neck injury.
Wolfe left the Nov. 26 game at Oakland in the first quarter due to the injury. He played in 11 games this season, with 31 tackles and two sacks.
Wolfe, 27, dealt with a sore neck much of last season and missed two games. Wolfe, a 2012 second-round pick out of Cincinnati, has 24½ sacks in six seasons with the Broncos.
In other moves, Denver signed tackle Jeremiah Poutasi to its practice squad and waived lineman Gabe Ikard. Poutasi is a third-year player out of Utah who spent most of this season on the Jaguars’ and Rams’ practice squads.
Falcons guard Andy Levitre will miss a game for the first time in his NFL career. The nine-year veteran won’t play Thursday night against the Saints because of a triceps injury.
Levitre had started 140 consecutive games since entering the league with Buffalo in 2009. He also spent two seasons with Tennessee before being dealt to the Falcons in 2015.
Levitre was injured in the first quarter of a 14-9 loss to the Vikings.
The Bears placed right guard Kyle Long on injured reserve for the second straight season.
The three-time Pro Bowler has been trying to play through a left shoulder injury he suffered in 2016. He aggravated it during Sunday’s loss to the 49ers and sat out the second half.
Long also suffered a season-ending ankle injury last season and has dealt with a finger issue this season.
The Bears (3-9) placed defensive lineman Mitch Unrein (knee) on injured reserve and signed linebacker Howard Jones and offensive lineman Cameron Lee from the practice squad.
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