Jon Gruden leads wave of criticism over violence in Steelers-Bengals 'MNF' game

The Pittsburgh Steelers23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on “Monday Night Football” was a particularly brutal and violent game between heated division rivals, leading to multiple injuries and scary moments on the field.

The most critical injury involved Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who couldn’t move his legs and reportedly suffered a spinal contusion after a frightening hit early in the game. He left the stadium in an ambulance and is in a local hospital.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier left the game in an ambulance after a hit on the field that left him apparently unable to move his legs. (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier left the game in an ambulance after a hit on the field that left him apparently unable to move his legs. (AP)

Later, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster laid an ugly helmet-to-helmet hit on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has a reputation of dirty play throughout his career, especially in the series between these two teams.

The two hits were the worst of several in a game that has drawn swift and pointed criticism, from the broadcast booth, to the postgame interview, on Twitter and on “SportsCenter.”

“It’s bad for football,” Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said on ESPN during postgame coverage. “There’s going to be some fines, there’s going be some stringent discipline. Let’s just hope a lot of these men are able to get up tomorrow morning and move on with life. Some of this stuff got out of hand tonight. It’s very disgusting and disturbing.”

Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde was blunt in his assessment of the game while giving credit to the MNF team for their critical coverage of the violence.

CBS Sports’ Will Brinson noted the postgame interview, in which Lisa Salters jumped straight to the point with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, whose trite response is drawing attention all over Twitter.

Pittsburgh TribLive sports columnist Rob Rossi noted the “terrible things” that happened in the game.

ESPN studio analyst and former league executive Louis Riddick, who played safety in the NFL from 1991-98, said the game has to change from the time he played and expects the league to come down hard on the violence from Monday.

“This is what the league doesn’t want and players can’t want,” Riddick said. “This is not the way the game is played any more. It may have been played that way in the 90s. It may have been played that way in the early 2000s. … But the landscape has changed.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gave his perspective from the sideline during his postgame interview.

“You’ve got to acknowledge it’s probably difficult for a lot of men to stay focused and play with their brother laid flat,” Tomlin said before touting his team’s ability to rally for the win. “Make no mistake, this is a tough game, a tough business.”

Much has been said about the changing landscape of the violent nature of professional football. In light of Shazier’s injury and the multitude of reckless hits between the Steelers and Bengals, Monday night feels like a turning point.

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