"I didn't think it was warranted," Roethlisberger told reporters. "I thought a fine, a pretty steep fine, something like that. But, you know, I thought what happened -- the play that happened -- happened in the context of a football play. It wasn't away from the ball, wasn't a hit on a kicker, a defenseless player, it was a guy getting ready to make a tackle; a much bigger football player. Obviously, we don't like the taunting, the standing over him, things like that."
Smith-Schuster caught the league office's eye when he flattened Vontaze Burfict with a wild peel-back block before standing over the Bengals linebacker, which quickly drew a taunting penalty from officials. Smith-Schuster later tweeted an apology to Burfict, who was carted off the field with a head injury.
Handing down the one-game suspension, NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan scolded Smith-Schuster, saying the pass-catcher "lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area ... then 'celebrated' the play by standing over him and taunting him."
"I don't like to compare players and suspensions, things like that, but if you look at what Gronk did and what JuJu did and they got the same suspension -- I don't know if that's necessarily fair," Roethlisberger said. "But that's above all of our pay grades."
The league office was quick to react to a Steelers-Bengals slugfest that saw Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier leave with a scary spinal injury in a contest that produced seven "extracurricular" penalties, the most in a game all season. It initially suspended Bengals safety George Iloka for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown before reducing his punishment to a fine of $36,464.50 on Wednesday.