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RUSH: I’m minding my own business last night. I’m lighting the pine and eucalyptus candles, decorating the… I mean, the White House has got nothing on us, Christmas decorations-wise.

We have two gigantic trees. It’s just awesome in there. I’m lighting these pine and eucalyptus candles from Jo Malone — my favorite scent and it goes perfect this time of year — and I get a bunch of emails. “Are you watching the Steelers-Bengals?” Of course, I wasn’t. So I wrote back. I said, “No.” “You’ve got to turn this on! You have got to turn…” So I said, “What is going on?” They said, “Just turn it on!” So I dropped the lighter I was using to light the pine and eucalyptus candles.

I went in there, and I turned on the game, and it was in the second quarter. And, man! (chuckling) The sports world is in a tizzy over this game last night because it was football the way it used to be played before they found out about CTE and all of that, and the sportswriters are just beside themselves about (impression), “Oh, how violent it was. This can’t stand! We’ve got to stop it. We’ve got to do something about it.” Comments coming up later.


RUSH: A month ago if you would have told me that I’d have been talking about the NFL, something unrelated to sideline protests and so forth, I would have told you, “Nope, you’re wrong.”

But we’re gonna talk about Steelers-Bengals last night because it has to do with the current state of football, the National Football League and where it’s heading and what’s happening to it as a business. So just to retrace my steps here — not gonna take long, but grab audio sound bite number 18 and have it standing by. Last night was a rivalry game, Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, I need to set this up. The Steelers and Bengals really have not been that big a rivalry. It’s been the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. But I think it was a couple years ago — the years run together. The Steelers had a game against the Bengals, it was a playoff game. It was at Cincinnati. And I forget the actual score, but the Steelers were on their way to losing. There were just a few short minutes left in regulation. And the Steelers were down two scores.

And within about a minute, the Bengals incurred enough penalty yardage for the Steelers to be moved within field goal range to win the game. And the Bengals penalties were committed by Adam “Pacman” Jones and Vontaze Burfict and then some penalties for running up against officials. It happened during dead ball periods. I mean, it was the most mind-boggling way to lose a football game. I could not believe it.

Shortly after that we had an interview here with Benjamin Watson, who’s now tight end for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s played for New England and so forth, and he’s a great guy. He’s written a book about Christian morals and how it’s gotten him through life. And I asked him about the game. I said, “I can’t imagine being part of the Cincinnati organization, losing a game like that just to settle thug type scores.” And he agreed, but said those are things that are happening.

I said, “Where’s the coaching staff? Why can’t coaches discipline these guys into not committing stupid fouls, running into the officials, objecting when the officials call a penalty, incurring another penalty, unsportsmanlike here.” Well, anyway, since that game, there has been a heated rivalry between these two organizations.

Even before that game, Pacman Jones, number 24, cornerback for the Bengals, who once walked into a strip club in Las Vegas waving hundred-dollar bills around, gunfire ensued and the bouncer ended up paralyzed. Pacman Jones was then sent packing. Jerry Jones picked up him, the Cowboys, for a while. He ended up in Cincinnati with his good partner and good buddy, Vontaze Burfict, linebacker, number 55.

In that previous game, Antonio Brown, wide receiver for the Steelers, was running a pass route, the ball was high, it was uncatchable, Vontaze Burfict lowered a shoulder into Antonio Brown’s helmet, and he was out on the field and injured with a concussion and unable to play the next week in a playoff game against Denver. So there’s been bad blood between these two teams for a while.

Last night’s game is being described as brutal, unnecessary, scary, exactly what the NFL doesn’t need right now. The first thing that happened that has people upset, Ryan Shazier, number 50, middle linebacker for the Steelers, was attempting a tackle, jammed his head into the side of one of the Cincinnati players. You could see it in slo-mo, the neck literally compressed. He hit the deck. Immediately grabbed for the center of his back, lower center, and rolled over and was not moving anything below his waist. Immediately you could tell that there was some degree — it looked like there was some degree of paralysis.

The place got stone quiet. The Steelers staff went out there, immediately got the stretcher, the body board, put him on it, put him on the cart, rolled him out of there. And the Steelers did not offer any updates on his condition throughout the game. They didn’t offer any updates ’til about 1:38 this morning. So everybody was left to speculate and wonder. Shazier was unable to move his left arm very much, looked in total, complete distress.

There was nothing illegal about the hit. He just lowered his head too much when trying to make a tackle. But there was nothing dirty about it. It was just rough. It was just an example of what can happen on the field. That’s the first thing that got people upset. The game then kind of got stale. You could tell that that event slowed things down and tamped down some of the momentum and energy, and the Steelers looked like they were sleep walking. Ended up 17-nothing down at halftime.

In the second half there was a play, Roethlisberger rolled left and completed almost a check-down pass to number 26, Le’Veon Bell. And out of nowhere, the youngest player in the league, number 19, JuJu Smith-Schuster for the Steelers, just comes in and levels Vontaze Burfict. It was the kind of hit that Hines Ward would stand up and applaud. It was a blind side hit, but it caught Burfict in the helmet, in the jaw and the helmet. And Burfict was immediately concussed and out of it.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, number 19, rookie, UCLA, stood over Vontaze Burfict and was accused in a penalty flag thrown for taunting, celebrating the injury of the opponent. The sports writer community had a cow. This is horrible! It was a hit to the head, and now he’s standing over him. He’s horrible! He’s bad! Number 84, wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had been leveled by the same kind of hit by Vontaze Burfict a few years ago said, “It’s karma.”

Burfict was taken off the field on a stretcher, on a cart, with a concussion. But the story is Burfict got off the stretcher once they got to the tunnel and tried to get back out on the field to settle the score, but they restrained him and he couldn’t and he was ruled out for the game.

Later, Antonio Brown, number 84, wide receiver for the Steelers, touchdown catch in the end zone and is leveled by another shot to the head by a Cincinnati defender, and it looked just as vicious as anything Shazier had experienced, just as vicious as what number 19, JuJu Smith-Schuster had dished out, the number 55, Vontaze Burfict.

Brown laid in the end zone with his arms raised, did not drop the ball, held on to the ball. It was a touchdown catch, and it proved to be the game-tying catch. And the flag threw, and it was unsportsmanlike, unnecessary roughness, whatever it was. Another penalty. And so those three events — and there were some other things that happened that were chippy during the game. There were some hits that weren’t called. But there were three direct shots to the head by the other players’ helmet, helmet-to-helmet hits, which are illegal now outside the line of scrimmage in the NFL.

And they asked Ben Roethlisberger, number 7, quarterback for the Steelers after the game, “Hey, it’s just AFC North football.” ESPN sportswriters — I guess they have some left after all the layoffs — “It’s just not right to say it’s AFC North football. This must not continue. This must stop. This is horrible. There’s no need for this. This is going backwards. This is not what the league –” And the general consensus seems to be that this game last night was horrible. It was absolutely ugly. It was unacceptable. It was it is not what the league needs. It should be the exact opposite of what the league allows.

That game last night — think of me what you will — that game last night is how football used to be played. There were hits like that pretty much every game. Now, there were not injuries like that, but it was frequent. I mean, it was a different game. They’ve now legislated by rule helmet-to-helmet contact out. They fine players. They suspend them. The league is doing everything it can to stop this kind of stuff.

And it’s now said that the players are gonna have to be the ultimate policemen. The players are gonna have to realize that they have to protect each other, that they are a fraternity and that this kind of thing can’t go on. Go ahead and have tough tackles and all that, but stop the helmet-to-helmet stuff. The brain injuries, we know too much about ’em now. They’re too long lasting. They have really demonstrable adverse effects.

But this was a game between two teams that really, really don’t like each other and had a building animosity for each other. And the sportswriter community, Jon Gruden, who was doing the color analysis for ESPN last night said it’s the worst thing he’s ever seen, it’s horrible, it shouldn’t have happened. That JuJu Smith-Schuster, number 19, wide receiver, Steelers should have been thrown out of the game for the hit on Vontaze Burfict.

Others said, “Hey, Burfict just got exactly what he dishes out every Sunday.” And they’re not far wrong in that. I mean, Burfict’s the kind of guy when he’s on your team, you love the guy, you support him. When he’s not on your team, you want him sent to jail. Tough competitor, but at home he’s supposedly a soft-spoken, gentle family man, father of three girls. After one of these games, number 24, cornerback for the Bengals, Adam Jones, submitted a video on Facebook where he accused the Steelers of being all gangsters.

Ramon Foster, an offensive lineman for the Steelers said last night was the first time he’s ever been scared to play football after seeing what happened to Ryan Shazier. Again, the Shazier hit, there was nothing illegal about it. He just dove straight into the Bengals, the player he was trying to tackle, right into his side, and you could see in slow motion his neck just compress. He immediately reached with his right hand behind his back to the middle of his back and rolled over and didn’t move, other than his arms.

So we have just one little sound bite on this. It’s from Good Morning America today. Correspondent T.J. Holmes was talking to Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan, who played for the Giants, about the hit that No. 9 — wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster — put on Vontaze Burfict.

HOLMES: We got a scary reminder of just what these guys — you guys, really — put on the line every single play. It can be a life-changing event every play.


HOLMES: That hit on Vontaze Burfict?


HOLMES: Look at it again, folks.


HOLMES: That is what they’re trying to get out of football. And then another hit on Antonio Brown — on a touchdown that he caught in the end zone — you see his head snap back.


HOLMES: This is the only game last night. This is a showcase game for the NFL, and this is what the country got to see: A great game, but it’s overshadowed now by the brutality.

STRAHAN: When you do see guys who take shots at other guys, that’s so unnecessary. We now know [they] have long-term effects.


STRAHAN: This is where guys need to realize: “This is not about right now. This is about your future.” I’ve been out there and you’ve seen a guy’s leg snap.

ROBERTS: Mmm-hmm.

STRAHAN: You can hear it, and you’re out there on the field. You’re looking at the guy you have to play against. You’re both looking at each other like, “We really have to do this.” But then it’s business as usual.

RUSH: They asked Charles Woodson (who’s on the ESPN team) in the postgame. They said, “Charles, when stuff like this happens — it’s happened when you’ve been playing — how do you go on?” Charles Woodson said, “You realize it’s your job. You’re professionals and you gotta go on,” and it’s true. I still don’t have a firm update on Shazier. The last I heard was that he’s gonna be let out of the hospital today in Cincinnati and go back to Pittsburgh. He did not need surgery. But, you know, this happened…

The Steelers were playing in Tennessee against the Titans way, way back before the Roethlisberger era, and Tommy Maddox, the quarterback, fell straight down on his head. His head hit the ground upside down, and you could see the neck compress there. His legs went immediately limp, and he was paralyzed below his waist for about 12 hours. But he only missed a week! He was out one week and came back and played. So some of the sportswriters say, “Yeah, Shazier could be back after a week.”

They’re thinking that JuJu Smith-Schuster (No. 19, for the Steelers) is gonna be suspended ’cause they suspended Gronkowski from the Patriots for a hit that he made against the Buffalo Bills player after the whistle. This, at least, happened during play. And next week the Steelers have the Ravens, and they hate them even more than the Bengals and vice versa. Now, you heard this guy T.J. Holmes say, “This is the showcase game. This is not what the league wanted.” Folks, I’m not so sure. I think this game last night has more people talking about what happened on the field at an NFL game than at any time this season. For the first time, more people are talking about a game rather than kneeling, sideline protests, social causes, and whatever else.

So we shall see.


RUSH: Sportswriters are all saying, “Why…? Why would they keep helmet-to-helmeting each other? Why keep hitting each other in the head once they saw what happened to Shazier?” It doesn’t work that way. Adrenaline, competition, heated rivalry, trying to separate receivers from the ball, or paying back No. 55, Vontaze Burfict, for what he did to Antonio Brown two years ago.


RUSH: No. 19, wide receiver the Pittsburgh Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster has been suspended for one game. So has George Iloka. He put the helmet-to-helmet hit on No. 84, Antonio Brown in the game-tying touchdown in the end zone. It was an attempt to separate Brown from the ball. The ball was held on to by Brown. He gets a game suspension, and let’s see. Buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh. I don’t know about fines yet, but those are the suspensions. Probably just the tip of the iceberg for that game.

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