CINCINNATI -- Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was one of three Bengals players in the concussion protocol after a violent game that saw two players taken off the field on backboards during Cincinnati's 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster leveled Burfict with an illegal hit in the fourth quarter, then taunted him by walking over him.
Burfict, who did not return, was tended to outside the locker room before the Bengals' medical personnel -- at the behest of Burfict -- removed the straps on the backboard. Burfict then jumped to his feet and walked into the locker room under his own power.
"[Smith-Schuster] shouldn't have stood over him. ... We want to play within the rules; we respect player safety," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin after the game. "I can assess a judgment on the fact that he stood over him, and that's not how we play, and that's not reflective of the sportsman he is. I'm sure he's sorry for that."
"I didn't know it was Burfict at first. All I saw was the first Bengal was going to tackle ... and my instinct is, I gotta block for my teammate," Smith-Schuster said. "And me just playing ball, I hit him. After I seen the replay, I think I should've held back a little bit more from blocking him. Also, I believe that that's not me. I should've never stood over him. I apologize for that, and with that being said, I hope he gets better."
Smith-Schuster also apologized on Twitter.
I don't have any intentions to hurt anyone when I play football. I didn't mean to hurt Vontez Burfict, I just wanted to throw a block for my teammate. I apologize for standing over him and that isn't me. Praying he gets better.— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) December 5, 2017
As Smith-Schuster talked about his block on Burfict after the game, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown shouted in Smith-Schuster's direction, "Don't even trip, I got straight cash on it. Karma. It's called karma. It's called karma. It's called karma."
Brown said he would pay Smith-Schuster's fine.
Burfict has some history with the Steelers. During the 2015 season, tackles he made caused injuries to running back Le'Veon Bell (knee) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) in regular-season matchups, and a concussion to Brown in a postseason meeting between the two teams.
In an ESPN The Magazine feature published Monday, Burfict said he thinks Brown "faked that."
"I feel like he looked at me," Burfict said. "The ball tipped off his hands and he kind of put his head towards my area, and I tried to fade off of him at the last second, but he initially tried to make contact because he knew he could get the flag. And just the way he went down, it was just like -- I don't know, man."
Earlier in Monday's game, Burfict had left the field with an apparent injury to his left elbow earlier in the fourth quarter Monday.
He was the second player who had to be loaded onto a backboard and carted off; early in the first quarter, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a back injury and was taken to a hospital, where he will stay overnight but will not require surgery, according to an update from the team.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon also did not return after being declared out with a concussion. He took a hard shot from Steelers linebacker Vince Williams and went to the turf. He remained there motionless while athletic trainers spoke to him before he was helped up by teammate Andre Smith. Mixon walked to the sideline and was taken to the medical tent, then went to the locker room to go through a concussion test.