DeAngelo Williams: Vontaze Burfict hit ruined Steelers' Super Bowl run

If you were watching last season's Steelers-Broncos playoff matchup, you'd probably say the game was lost for Pittsburgh when third-team running back Fitzgerald Toussaint fumbled.

Most of you would say that, anyway.

Because Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, who had a fantastic 2015 campaign after replacing Le'Veon Bell midway through the season, says the team was on a collision course with a Super Bowl appearance until Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict ruined it.

Specifically, Burfict's helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown during the wild-card game proved to be Pittsburgh's undoing.

Brown, the league's most dangerous pass catcher, missed the Broncos game with a concussion, and the team was already without playmakers Bell and Williams, the latter of whom suffered an ankle injury in the regular-season finale.

(Worth noting: Brown torched Broncos cornerback Chris Harris during the teams' regular-season meeting, to the tune of 16 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Harris hadn't allowed a score in two years before that matchup.)

Williams told's Jeremy Fowler that there was "no doubt" a healthy Brown would have led the Steelers to a Super Bowl 50 appearance.

"For me, my rival throughout my year will be the Cincinnati Bengals," Williams said. "I don't think there was any doubt in my mind if [Brown] was not interfered on or hit the way he was hit, however you want to label it -- there's no doubt we go on and give the Broncos hell."

That certainly seems reasonable, but the Steelers would have had to face the Patriots -- in Foxborough -- in the AFC Championship Game. History suggests New England would have had little trouble with Pittsburgh on its way back to the Super Bowl.

There's also this theory, coming mostly from Bengals fans:

A quick refresher: Burfict's hit resulted in a 15-yard penalty, which was promptly followed by another 15-yard penalty, courtesy of Adam Jones (and, depending on who you ask, Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter). Those infractions set up the game-winning field goal.

If you're worried that all this after-the-fact finger-pointing will haunt Burfict as he prepares for the 2016 season, don't. The linebacker, who has already been suspended for the first three games of the season, blames the Bengals' playoff loss on a Bengals player not named Vontaze Burfict.

One person thinks Vontaze Burfict railroaded the Steelers' chance to play in the Big Game. (USATSI)
One person thinks Vontaze Burfict railroaded the Steelers' chance to play in the Big Game. (USATSI)

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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