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Steelers recognize the Bengals playoff game went too far

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- More than two months later, the heated Cincinnati Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game still feels like a fresh memory.

The league's proposed rule to eject players after two unsportsmanlike fouls of various kinds reminds of that wet January night in Cincinnati when two NFL teams blasted each other with their helmets.

The game couldn't be escaped at this week's NFL owners meetings.

On Monday, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino dissected Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier's hit on Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, deeming the helmet shot "illegal." On Tuesday, New York Giants owner John Mara said this week the league has a "sportsmanship problem."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin joined the party, saying Tuesday he's all for promoting better on-field decorum at this week's owners meetings.

Tomlin was hesitant to address the Bengals game shortly after it happened because his team was still in the playoffs. He chose not to acknowledge the Bengals' criticisms, including outcry over Shazier's hit and cornerback Adam Jones saying Antonio Brown faked a concussion. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first three games of the season for several egregious hits, including his vicious one on Brown in the final minute of the 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh.

In a Week 14 matchup, the teams nearly brawled at midfield before the game even started.

"It was unfortunate, obviously," Tomlin said. "I don't think any of us wants that. It's not good for football. We dealt with it as best as we could."

By Wednesday, the league will decide whether to implement the rule or table talks until the next meeting.

With Bengals-Steelers, what felt like bad blood in January feels like the spark of constructive conversation -- at least for a week.

"The goal is not to eject people from the game," said Tomlin of the rule proposal. "The goal is to change behavior.”