Steelers-Bengals was a gross exchange of headshots, and it was bad for football

The Steelers and Bengals have an ugly rivalry history. They’ve played a few good games, but their modern series isn’t defined by competitive football. It’s defined by players doing horrible things to each other, and never more so than on Monday.

Some quick background: Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier left in the first quarter with a horrifying back injury. We don’t know many details yet, other than the team said he would not need surgery and “he continues to improve.”

But it’s hard not to picture the moment when Shazier was immobilized on a flat board and carted off the field. He had his head down while making an otherwise standard hit. It was a reminder of how violent a game this is even when players aren’t deliberately trying to hurt each other. Later in the game, Bengals running back Joe Mixon was diagnosed with a concussion after a big hit.

Ideally, Shazier’s injury would have reminded everyone on the field that some things — like head, neck, and spinal health — should be more important than the satisfaction of knocking the hell out of somebody. That’s not what happened.

In the fourth quarter Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster put an awful hit on Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict:

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