Mitchell expressed frustration with what he perceives as a lack of consistency in the league's punishments.
Monday night's ugly clash between the Steelers and Bengals, which featured multiple-head on collisions that sent players to the hospital and prompted suspensions, has drawn strong reactions throughout the league. On one hand, calls for a targeting rule have been renewed and writers have eloquently stated how difficult it is to watch a game so violent. On the other side, some NFL players have expressed frustration with what they perceive as a lack of consistency in the league's punishments.
One of those players is Steelers' safety Mike Mitchell, who gave heated remarks to reporters about the discipline handed over by the NFL this weekend. Specifically, Mitchell took specific issue with Cincinnati's George Iloka and Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster receiving the same one-game suspension that New England's Rob Gronkowski did, given that Iloka and Smith-Schuster's hits came during a play while Gronkowski's was made in frustration after a play was already completed.
Iloka's suspension was reversed upon appeal, while Smith-Schuster's was upheld.
Warning: The video below contains NSFW language.
19/43 were making a football plays in football games during the PLAY more specifically before the whistle.87s play was a downed man post whistle. I get the league having player safety that’s fine but don’t tell me those are the same offense.— Mike Mitchell (@iammikemitchell) December 5, 2017
My real complaint isn’t with the @nfl it’s with my fellow players. How did we agree to this cba? There is no consistency in the way we are disciplined. One week you can commit a foul and be fined the next be suspended. One week a fight is an ejection the next it’s a suspension.— Mike Mitchell (@iammikemitchell) December 5, 2017
"First you're taking our money, but now I got assholes like Matt Hasselback calling me a dirty player and trying my character, and we've never met before," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, a former second-round pick now in his ninth season, also expressed a common theme among defenders, which is the game is nearly impossible for them with the current rules in place.
"Just hand us all some flags," Mitchell said, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "Hand us all some flags and we'll go out there and try to grab the flags off. Because we're not playing football. This is not damn football. When I was six years old watching Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson, Sean Taylor, the hitters, Jack Tatum. That's football. This ain't football. You have to know the risk when you sign up. No one wants to be paralyzed. No one wants to have head injuries. These are all things that are negative.
"But let's not try to turn football into a dangerous, barbaric game. This is how I changed my family legacy. Before I got drafted, I had $368 to my bank account. That is far from the case today. I've changed my family legacy by this beautiful game of football forever. So let's not try to turn this into some evil, dirty game. It's football. It's no different than UFC fighting. This is a combat, contact sport. There's gonna be injuries. That's just what it is. But if you don't want to get injured, don't come out here. This is for real men. This is a man's game. Ray Lewis said that a couple years ago, and I stand by that. It's a man's game. If you don't want to be a little kid and get your a-- hit, don't come out here. This is a man's game."
In the video above, Mitchell seems to suggest that the league needs better leadership to handle these sorts of situations going forward.
"We gotta do better as players when we sign the next CBA. We gotta get better leadership as who's running the league, because obviously everybody from fans, owners, players are all disappointed in Roger Goodell...We can't have a guy where you just hand out discipline on how you see fit. There needs to be a set guideline on how we do what we do."
Goodell signed a new contract on Wednesday.