Another NFL headache: Steelers, Bengals cap a month of ugly hits, brawls

Ryan Shazier reacts as he is carted off. (John Grieshop/Getty Images)

A troubled NFL season marked by controversy has taken a turn for the worse as, over the past month, an element of viciousness has crept into what was already a violent game and superceded the great play that brought people to it in the first place.

What is happening as the season enters its home stretch? The day-after conversations now center on fights over necklaces and nasty hits, with the Monday night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals the most recent example. Vontaze Burfict was stretchered off the field to undergo concussion evaluation after an illegal hit by JuJu Schuster-Smith, who taunted him as he stood over him. Not long after that, George Iloka of the Bengals drilled Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the face mask after a game-tying touchdown. All of which came after the sobering sight of a Steelers player being immobilized and carted off, to be hospitalized overnight with a spinal contusion.

The most serious injury, to Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, left him lying on the field with his hands over his eyes — and it was one of

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