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You know things are about to get real when a Steeler sticks up for a Bengal. Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell unleashed a scathing rant against NFL officiating and discipline after his teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bengals safety George Illoka received the same suspension of one game as Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski received for a late hit targeted at the head of a player lying face down on the turf.

Mitchell touched on a handful of related issues facing the NFL, all orbiting around a core message that rings true. Football is not violent because defensive backs lead with their helmets and shoulder pads. Football is violent because it is football:

“I signed up to play full-speed contact football, and we’re not doing that. I feel like I gotta ask a guy, ‘Hey, are you ready for me to hit you right now?’ before I hit you. And that’s crazy.

“I’m gonna mess around and get hurt trying to protect an offensive player because he’s running an over route. Dammit, your quarterback shouldn’t have thrown that ball messed up. That happened two years ago. I’m not joking at all. Andy Dalton threw a ball to Tyler Eifert two years ago. Tyler Eifert had to dive for it. I was aiming for his gut. But if he don’t dive, he don’t get hit in the head. That’s 50 grand out of my pocket. Because Andy throws a bad ball.”

Mitchell’s statement has flaws. The NFL has an obvious concussion problem, and any solution that helps protect players, even if hypocrisy and inconsistency are byproducts, is better than no solution. Former defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora summed up this sentiment nicely in one tweet earlier.

However, even though his off-the-cuff rant may have implied certain things, I don’t believe Mitchell actually wants a system that doesn’t discipline players for making dangerous plays. His issue is with the NFL’s system of discipline rather than the idea of discipline itself.

He addressed this toward the end of his rant as well:

“There’s just so much going on in the game right now. We’ve got to do better as players when we sign the next CBA. We’ve got to get better leadership as who’s running the league ’cause obviously everybody — fans, owners, players — are all disappointed in [commissioner] Roger Goodell. We just gotta do better. We can’t have a guy where you just hand out discipline on how you see fit. There needs to be a set guideline of how we do what we do.”

The NFL has clearly had issues oweing to the damage football causes to brains, and until they acknowledge, they’ll struggle to find a successful system of discipline.

About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for SI.com and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.