It wasn’t Vontaze Burfict’s forearm blow to the back of Antonio Brown’s neck that drew the ire of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It was what Burfict did next.
According to Roethlisberger, the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker singled out wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as his next intended victim.
“As I’m coming to the line of scrimmage, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next,’ ” Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his 93.7 FM weekly radio segment.
Smith-Schuster, of course, knocked Burfict out the December game between the Steelers and Bengals with a vicious block that, along with a taunting penalty, earned him a one-game suspension.
For Burfict to openly seek retribution on Smith-Schuster angered Roethlisberger.
“To me, that is completely uncalled for,” he said. “That is what I have a big issue with. … That’s over the line.”
Burfict reportedly will not be suspended for his third-quarter hit on Brown. Burfict was in his second game back with the Bengals after missing the first four games of the season because of a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Roethlisberger was a Burfict target on the Steelers’ opening drive when the quarterback tried a quarterback sneak on third-and-2. Burfict led with his helmet and missed colliding with Roethlisberger. The play, however, was whistled dead before the snap because the Steelers called timeout.
Roethlisberger said he and Burfict exchanged words after the sneak.
“I just told him it’s good to have you back out here,” Roethlisberger said. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He starts getting all mouthy and trying to push me. I just kind of laughed and walked away.”
It wasn’t until Roethlisberger returned home Sunday night he realized how close Burfict came to hitting him with his helmet.
“My wife said I got lucky on that quarterback sneak,” Roethlisberger said. “She said he was coming at your head. I didn’t know anything about it until I went back and looked at it. Boy, did I sure get lucky.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.