The National Football League announced Tuesday that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster received a one-game suspension for his hit on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict during Monday night's Week 13 game at Paul Brown Stadium.
The NFL's vice president of football communications, Michael Signora, provided a league statement:
In the fourth quarter, Smith-Schuster delivered a crushing block to Burfict, who was looking in another direction as he chased Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. After the hit, the rookie wide receiver stood over the injured linebacker and received both unnecessary roughness and taunting penalties on the play.
"I was just playing to the whistle," he told reporters. "I didn't mean to stand over him. I was trying to get a big block for Le'Veon Bell for him to get upfield. The unsportsmanlike conduct is not me. I shouldn't have done that. I hope he's OK, and I hope he gets better."
Burfict was one of several players to get injured during the hard-hitting contest, which Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger described as "AFC North football" during an on-field interview with ESPN.
Bengals cornerback William Jackson III felt reaction to the hit would have been different if the roles were reversed.
"I think it was a dirty play. If 'Tez would've did it, he would've gotten kicked out of the game," he said. "They didn't really do justice for 'Tez. They should have kicked [Smith-Schuster] out of the game because I know they would have kicked 'Tez out if he did something like that."
Burfict was suspended for the first three games of the regular season for "repeated violations of safety-related playing rules."
Smith-Schuster, whom the Steelers selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, has made 37 catches for 585 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games so far in his debut campaign.
The 21-year-old USC product is now slated to miss Pittsburgh's home clash with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey could all see more snaps as part of the receiver rotation behind top target Antonio Brown until the rookie returns to action.
Meanwhile, Josh Shaw and Clayton Fejedelem will replace Iloka in the Bengals secondary when Cincy takes on the Chicago Bears at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.