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Pittsburgh Steelers panned for possibly mocking Damar Hamlin’s recent medical emergency

NFL fans and casual followers alike have taken to social media to criticize what they perceived to be an attempt from the Pittsburgh Steelers to mock a serious medical emergency which occurred during an NFL game a week ago.

Last Monday, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, just 24 years old, went into cardiac arrest after taking a hard hit to the chest during a primetime Monday Night Football match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals, who lead the AFC North division. The moments following Hamlin’s collapse were truly harrowing. Hamlin went into such medical distress that officials had to perform CPR on him on the field, and players from both teams soon began crying. The game had to be temporarily suspended and then ultimately canceled.

Fortunately, Hamlin seems to have since made a remarkable recovery. Reports indicate that he has been discharged from the hospital, where he has been tweeting robustly for the past three days. When the Bills took on the New England Patriots on Sunday, Hamlin tweeted, “GameDay.. Nothing I Want More Than To Be Running Out That Tunnel With My Brothers. God Using Me In A Different Way Today. Tell Someone You Love Them Today!”

Fans, players, sports pundits, and people of good will everywhere have continued to pray fervently for Hamlin’s recovery. In a truly moving moment before their game Sunday afternoon, the Steelers and their bitter rivals, the Cleveland Browns, gathered at midfield and knelt in solemn prayer for Hamlin.

However, late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers seemed to belie that show of solidarity for Hamlin. At the very least, they performed an ill-timed celebration that seemed to mock Hamlin’s medical emergency. With 30 seconds left in the game and Pittsburgh up two touchdowns, Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith managed to sack Browns QB Deshaun Watson for more than ten yards. After he made the hit, Highsmith laid prostrate on the ground, and soon afterwards, an unidentified teammate walked up to him and pretended to perform CPR, the same life-saving medical intervention Hamlin received only a few days before.

Despite the appearance of poor sportsmanship, several people and outlets, including Blitzburgh, which covers the Steelers extensively, noted that the team regularly performs the CPR celebration on the field and argued that the Highsmith incident on Sunday was just “bad timing” and likely unrelated to Hamlin.

After the game, Highsmith, a self-described “Follower of Jesus Christ,” tweeted out a scripture verse to indicate he was praying for Hamlin.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” wrote Highsmith, quoting from Psalm 133 and including the picture of the Steelers and Browns united in prayer.

Still, many fans have stated that they have now lost much of their respect for the Steelers organization.

“Steelers defense celebrated a sack by performing CPR. Of all weeks… not a great look. Yikes,” wrote Gunz of “The Gunz Show.”

Coleman Bentley of Golf Digest wrote, “[T]o the surprise of absolutely no one the Pittsburgh Steelers locked up the NFL’s number-one classless seed on Sunday.”

Others have also characterized the move “classless,” while NFL Memes called it “literally the WORST possible sack celebration this week.”

Both the Steelers and the Browns had already been eliminated from playoff contention before Sunday’s game even began, so the Steelers’ 28-14 win was just for bragging rights. Meanwhile, Hamlin’s Bills defeated the Patriots 35-23 and will face the Miami Dolphins in a Wild Card game on January 15. The winner of that game will advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.

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