Bengals defend Vontaze Burfict's pivotal hit on Steelers' Le'Veon Bell

CINCINNATI -- Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on Monday defended the actions of linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whose hard tackle Sunday in the team's 16-10 win over Pittsburgh left Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell with a knee injury that ended his season.

"That was a clean hit. You can print that," Guenther told ESPN. "The guy came out and ran a little option route on him, and Vontaze tackled him, and he just got his feet tangled up underneath him.

"There was nothing wrong with it."

The Steelers said Monday that they were placing Bell on the season-ending injured reserve after he suffered an MCL injury during the second-quarter tackle. A league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter Bell "badly tore" his right MCL.

After he brought Bell to the ground, Burfict sprinted out some 30 yards from the Steelers' sideline, where he brought Bell down, to the middle of the field, where he jumped in celebration with one of Cincinnati's cornerbacks. The leap came while Bell clutched his knee following an 8-yard pass.

Guenther found no problem with Burfict's celebration, either.

One Steelers player said after the game that Guenther relayed an apology to Pittsburgh's sideline in response to Burfict's antics. Guenther chuckled at that suggestion and said there was no way he would have done that.

Burfict said Sunday that he didn't initially know Bell was hurt and he regards him as a friend.

"Honestly I don't think he intentionally meant to hurt him or anything like that," Guenther said. "It wasn't like he struck his helmet on his knee or anything like that. It's just unfortunate that it happened. Bell's a good player. He's a helluva good player. It's a tough game and some of those things happen."

The game was Burfict's first in a Bengals uniform in about a year. He had just returned from rehab for a serious knee injury suffered in Week 8 last season. Four of Burfict's five first-half tackles were on Bell.

It was in his previous game against the Bengals, last year's regular-season finale, that Bell hurt the same knee on a hard hit from safety Reggie Nelson. Due to the injury, Bell was lost for the Steelers' lone playoff game.

Burflict's hit Sunday on Bell wasn't the only controversial play that carried over into Monday.

Bengals receiver Marvin Jones called Steelers safety Mike Mitchell "fake tough" for celebrating a hard hit he delivered on Jones and then chirping about it in A.J. Green's face moments later.

"When you turn on the film, you don't see him hitting anybody when they're going head up. That's fake tough," Jones said to ESPN. "It's whatever. He hit me. I just got the wind knocked out of me, and it's OK. It's whatever. When guys get all hyped off minor stuff like that -- hitting somebody that's not even looking -- that's fake tough to me."

The hit on Jones was one of many gasp-worthy tackles doled out in the physical contest.

"I'm not hurting right now," said Jones, who finished with two catches for 12 yards, while Mitchell had five tackles and an interception before a fourth-quarter head injury forced him from the game. "Nothing hurts. Nothing's sore."