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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Ben Roethlisberger: JuJu Smith-Schuster suspension is unfair

Juju Smith-Schuster Vontaze Burfict

Several NFL players were suspended this week for hits during games that were deemed dangerous and illegal, and Ben Roethlisberger goes not think his teammate deserved to be one of them.

On Tuesday, Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was given a one-game suspension for his vicious block on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Roethlisberger believes the punishment does not fit the crime.

“I didn’t think it was warranted,” the quarterback said, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought maybe a pretty steep fine. I thought what happened, the play happened within the context of a football play. It wasn’t away from the ball. It wasn’t a hit on a kicker or a defenseless player. It was a guy getting ready to make a tackle, a much bigger player.”

Smith-Schuster was flagged for a crack-back block, which has been an illegal play for several years now. It probably didn’t help his cause that he stood over Burfict and taunted him, which is something Roethlisberger alluded to. However, Big Ben felt what Rob Gronkowski did to a Bills defender — which also resulted in a one-game suspension — was far more egregious.

“Obviously, we don’t like the taunting, standing over him,” Roethlisberger added. “I don’t like to compare players and suspensions, but if you look at what [Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski] did and what JuJu did … and they got the same suspension. I don’t know that that’s necessarily fair, but that’s above all of our pay grades.”

When Smith-Schuster leveled Burfict, it was in the middle of a live play. Gronkowski’s hit came after the whistle and on a player who was already face-down on the ground, so you can understand why Roethlisberger feels the two plays should not have resulted in the same disciplinary action.

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