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Big Ben: JuJu Smith-Schuster's suspension not fair

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According to Steelers signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster was done wrong by the NFL.

Reacting Wednesday to the rookie wideout's one-game suspension stemming from Monday night's violence-filled win over the Bengals, Big Ben argued that Smith-Schuster's punishment doesn't fit the crime.

"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."

Roethlisberger compared the wideout's ban to the one-game suspension handed down to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who hit Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White on Sunday with a late elbow to the neck while the defender was down and out of bounds after the play was whistled dead.

"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.

As for Gronkowski, it's certainly fair to ask if the tight end deserved a stiffer punishment. There's no question Big Ben knows what a two-game ban would have meant: No monstrous Gronk for Week 15, when Pittsburgh does battle with the nearly perfect Patriots.

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