PITTSBURGH (AP) – The NFL insists it is not sending contradictory messages as it tries to reduce what it considers violent games that cross the line.
The Pittsburgh Steelers heard one anyway.
The leaders of the AFC North are confused and frustrated by the league's decision to maintain the suspension of a game by Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for an illegal hit against Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict, while That gives Bengals' cornerback George Iloka's appeal of his game Prohibiting a helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers star Antonio Brown in the final minutes of Pittsburgh's brutal 23-2 victory occasionally on Monday night.
"We have been very consistent," said Executive Vice President of Operations Troy Vincent during a conference call on Wednesday.
Not according to the Steelers.
"They ruined it," said guard Ramon Foster. "You say you're worried about the safety of the players, but you had a guy who evidently had a helmet on his helmet and he was not suspended, you had a guy who just made a mockery and tried to justify it by suspending it, that's not the player's security."
Smith-Schuster drilled Burfict, while the volatile Cincinnati linebacker was trying to chase Pittsburgh runner Le & Bell Veon Bell during a Pittsburgh drive.
Smith-Schuster, the youngest player in the league, stood on Burfict while the rest of the play went on, drawing unnecessary irregularities and provocative penalties in the process.
Minutes later, Iloka threw himself headlong against Brown when Brown threw in the touchdown of the game's draw, which received an unnecessary penalty for his rudeness.
Both players were hit with suspensions on Tuesday and immediately appealed. Smith-Schuster, a rookie, was rejected by appeals officer James Thrash, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
Iloka had a reduced suspension to a substantial fine by appeals officer Derrick Brooks.
The Smith-Schuster suspension came a day after the league suspended New England tight end Rob Gronkowski for a game for his ugly blow to the head of Bills defender Tre & # 39; Davious White.
Gronkowski aimed at White's head long after the whistle, his left arm hit White facedown after White's interception.
While Vincent allowed the league to have not established disciplinary guidelines for a "non-footballing act" such as Gronkowski and the Smith-Schuster taunts did not play a role in the decision-making process, the Steelers can not understand why that the actions of Smith-Schuster and those of Gronkowski ended with the same punishment for violations that they hardly consider similar.
"What happened (with Smith-Schuster) happened in the context of a football game," said Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"It was not far from the ball, it was not a blow for a kicker, a helpless player, it was a guy who was preparing to make a tackle, a bigger football player.
"Obviously we do not like teasing, standing over him, things like that, I do not like to compare players, suspensions and things like that, I do not (but) look at what Gronk did and what JuJu did and I got the same suspension, I do not know if that is necessarily fair, but that is above my level of payment. "
Foster, one of Pittsburgh's representatives in the NFL Players Association, called the entire process flawed.
"There should be a committee of people (discipline) to discuss it in place of a man," Foster said. "It should be a committee of people who do it."
According to the NFL operations department website: "Players subject to disciplinary action receive a letter informing them of what they did, a video of the work in question, why they are being fined and how much it will cost. they receive information on how to appeal the fine, and if they choose not to appeal, the fine is withheld at the next verification of the game. "
When it comes to appealing fines and suspensions, "cases are assigned randomly, so neither party in the appeals process knows who will hear a case." The official assigned to the case reviews the play and listens to the case of the league and the defense of the player. The decision of the officer is final and the ruling is binding. "
Smith-Schuster, who is excluded from the team's facilities until after the Steelers play against Baltimore on Sunday night, responded by tweeting "(hash) FreeJuJu" on Wednesday afternoon. His teammates prepared to continue without him, even if they are not sure why.
"There needs to be an established guide on how we do what we do," said Mike Mitchell, Pittsburgh security. "There's no way I can see two people receiving post-game penalties, post-game infractions that have nothing to do with football and you get the same suspension as a guy who's playing football at a football game. absolutely absurd, as I said, it's Steelers vs. The World. "