A confluence of events preceded the Steelers Week 2 matchup that made the result entirely predictable, however embarrassing it was.
Thursday night football is almost universally despised because, more often than not, it provides terrible entertainment quality, largely because both teams are tired and ill-prepared. The misery of these short weeks is further amplified for the away team, who loses even more valuable time traveling for the game.
In short, it's just a nightmare.
So consider the Steelers had to deal with the trials of a short week on the road facing their bitterest division rivals where games are "always" close and the two teams know each other better than the back of their shoulder pads. The Baltimore game in Week 2 was pretty much destined to wind up with the Steelers being taken out to the woodshed. While that's no excuse for the manner in which they lost, it's a fact of life in the NFL.
But after the horror show in Baltimore, the Steelers had a nice, comfy "long week", or nine days to be precise, courtesy of their Thursday-night tilt against the Ravens. With this added time, the team rested up and the coaching staff did a fantastic job of, ye know, coaching.
The Steelers came out executing a well-prepared game plan and kept their feet on the Panthers' throats, looking very much like a team on a long week with a high-caliber coaching staff. Kudos all around.
Now when considering the Steelers' Week 4 opponents, many analogies can be drawn between the two teams.
The Buccaneers received their very own curb-stomping last Thursday. Like the Steelers, they were on a short week and they had to go on the road to face a hated divisional rival in the Atlanta Falcons. What happened in Atlanta was nothing short of a massacre, and a true testament to the scourge that is mid-week football. But make no mistake, the Bucs aren't 42 points worse than the Atlanta Falcons. In fact, no team in the NFL is 42 points worse than any other team.
So, like the Steelers, the Buccaneers have suffered a resounding defeat on national television which seems more likely to have been an example of talented team simply not executing to an acceptable standard.
And like the Steelers as they waited to face the Panthers, the Buccaneers currently are in the midst of a long week, which I would imagine has stretched into a loooong, long week, unless the coaching staff simply decided to burn the film from their last game and revert to business as usual.
They've got a an experienced coach in Lovie Smith, who has been around the block and then some. They've got talented playmakers at every level on the team and they've got nine long days to figure out what the hell went wrong. Like Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau did with Carolina, the Tampa coaching staff will be sitting in a smoke- filled room, dissecting every snap the Steelers have taken to concoct a game plan and hammering fundamentals into their players so hard they'll be shouting their gap assignments in their sleep.
This is not to say the Bucs will saunter onto Heinz Field and punch Pittsburgh right in the mouth the way the Steelers did to Carolina last week, but it's always wise to be wary of a team coming off of a "long week".
After the Ravens game, many thought there was no depth lower that the Steelers could sink to, much the same as the Bucs' fans are thinking now. A long week was sufficient for a talented team like the Steelers to get themselves together and hand out a thrashing to a top tier team. We shouldn't discount the Buccaneers' ability to do the same.