Save the first 12 minutes of the game, the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh Thursday night affair went pretty much as you might expect: the undermanned Bengals couldn't keep up with the division-leading Steelers and after 60 minutes of football, they were 1-9-1 (thanks, Philly!).
In Week 7, last time these two teams met, Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward knocked linebacker Keith Rivers out for the year. There were the inevitable conversations about payback and revenge, but ultimately, Ward emerged from the Week 12 tilt unscathed. Santonio Holmes, however, did not.
Early in the third quarter, Ben Roethlisberger, facing a Cincinnati blitz, hit Holmes on a slant pattern. It was a well-executed pass-and-catch except that Bengals safety Chris Crocker read the play perfectly. Amazingly, Holmes' head didn't come detached from his body. Not so amazingly, Holmes staggered off the field and didn't return.
After the game, everybody in Pittsburgh's locker room agreed: Crocker's hit was a clean one, and since this is still (although barely) tackle football, players should be allowed to, you know, tackle other players.
"I don't think it was dirty," Roethlisberger said after the Steelers' 27-10 win. "It was a good, solid hit. I told (my teammates) not to retaliate on him."Thanks, Ben. Interestingly, Holmes told his teammates not to retaliate against Roethlisberger for leading him right into a brick wall. Ward added that "That's just the violence of the game ... The guy read it right and made a huge hit on Santonio."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gene Collier, saw things differently, however.
Crocker rammed into Holmes 20 yards from the goal line at Heinz Field's open end, using the exact technique the National Football League swears it detests, full speed helmet-to-helmet, with evident malice. Though he didn't launch himself, which was the only reason Holmes was able to leave the field in any kind wobbly vertical attitude, Crocker should be scolded, fined and made to watch a continuous loop of the Bengals offense until he weeps.Jim Marshall would not be impressed with Collier. And neither would Hines Ward, I suspect.