Steelers prepare for another physical battle with Bengals
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster just wants to move on from last December’s physical primetime meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals.
But the second-year wideout thrust himself into one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL last season with a memorable block against Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Smith-Schuster was reminded of the hit prior to Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.
“I didn’t want to talk about it,” Smith-Schuster said. “I knew you guys were going to want to talk about this and make something out of it, but I am just trying to get a “W″ this weekend, that’s it.”
Last December, Smith-Schuster delivered a punishing blindside block on Burfict, the Steeler agitator, who ended running back Le’Veon Bell’s season in 2015, and injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown in the same playoff game at Cincinnati later that year.
Smith-Schuster got a 15-yard penalty for the block and another penalty for taunting when he stood over Burfict after the hit. He also was given a one-game suspension.
Burfict served a four-game suspension to open the current season. He returned to the lineup last week without incident and helped the first-place Bengals beat Miami.
Smith-Schuster said he’s not concerned about Burfict or the Bengals seeking revenge on Sunday.
“I’m just worried about the game, playing focused and playing with my teammates,” Smith-Schuster said. “It’s the AFC North and the rivalry is very strong. It’s physical and it’s going to be a tough game.”
Last December’s game featured a combined 20 penalties for 239 yards, including a team-record 173 yards by the Bengals. It was also the game where Steelers LB Ryan Shazier sustained a life-altering spinal injury following a tackle.
“There were a lot of emotions on both sides of the ball, obviously with Shazier and what I did,” Smith-Schuster said. “But it’s just a physical game. That’s what you’re going to get out of it.”
Brown sustained a concussion and was knocked from the game by safety George Iloka - no longer with the Bengals -- following a touchdown reception. The score helped Pittsburgh overcome a 17-point deficit and win its sixth straight in the series on a last-second field goal.
“They’re always trying to get the best of us, either physically, after the play or during plays,” Brown said. “That’s why they call it the jungle because you have to go in there and be ready to win.”
Brown met with the media for the first time Friday since two lawsuits were filed against him stemming from an incident at a Florida apartment complex last spring.
Ophir Sternberg is seeking damages against Brown, claiming objects thrown by Brown from the 14th floor of an apartment building in April came close to striking Sternberg’s father and 22-month-old son. A second lawsuit filed by the owner of the apartment building is seeking more than $15,000 in damages from Brown.
“I can’t discuss pending litigation,” Brown said. “I just look forward to my day in court.”
Brown told police that the incidents occurred after a gun and $80,000 were stolen from his apartment. Brown said in a statement a day earlier that the lawsuits contained “false claims” against him.
“It comes from being successful, it comes from being in the spotlight, it comes from having fame,” Brown said on Friday. “If I was a nobody, (the media) wouldn’t be here speculating to begin with.”
Brown said he’s focused on the Bengals this week.
“I’m a professional and I know what I’m here for,” Brown said. “I’m trying to win football games. It’s Cincinnati week ... it’s a big week for us. Being in this position comes with a lot of distractions and you have to be able to narrow your focus and that’s what I’m able to do.”
NOTES: Steelers’ S Morgan Burnett (groin) will miss his fourth straight game, while WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (ankle) will miss his second straight. LB L.J. Fort (ankle) is doubtful. LB Vince Williams fully practiced this week after missing against Atlanta with a hamstring injury.