The Steelers are taking on the Panthers tonight at Heinz Field on three-day’s rest.
That’s right, it’s the annual game on Thursday Night Football that everyone—coaches, players, fans and the media—complains about and/or acts surprised by, as if it was flexed from a 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon game at the very last minute.
“Thursday night football is the worst! I had to sell my tickets because I have to work in the morning,” says you.
“The NFL only pretends to care about player safety! How can the league say it cares if it continues to insist on playing these asinine Thursday night games,” asks your average journalist/radio talking head every. Single. Time.
Then, of course, there are the coaches and players who grumble that three days just isn’t enough time to get ready for an opponent, a curious concern, considering those very same people often use bye week rust as a reason for poor performance on the football field.
I get it, nobody likes Thursday night games, nobody except the networks who are obviously still garnering bigger ratings than your typical scripted television show by airing prime-time football. Otherwise, we’d have to endure more of those annoying “Is the NFL in serious trouble?” articles each and every week whenever the television viewing numbers are released to the public.
You can count the Steelers among the many NFL teams who do not enjoy these football games. Pittsburgh (5-2-1) will have to face a very good football team without the benefit of a full week of rest and practice. The Steelers will be going up against an opponent with an elite passer, a dynamic offense and a pretty good defense.
Guess what? So will the 6-2 Panthers. And the bad part for Carolina is it will have to do all of those things as the road team.
While the Steelers have had the benefit of enduring the short week in the city of Pittsburgh, the Panthers have had to endure part of it at two airports, and the other part of it at the team hotel. Sure, Steelers’ players must stay at a hotel the night before a game, but they don’t have to wash all of that travel off of their bodies before mentally preparing for their opponents.
There’s a reason most sports teams—even the really good ones—struggle a little more away from their home venues.
There’s that aforementioned travel time, the crowds, and, yes and those officials that are no doubt influenced by those crowds, fans that are often very biased in favor of the guys who didn’t have to go through airport security.
To quote an anonymous NBA assistant coach after his team was stuck out at an airport hangar for hours on the day of a regular season road game: “We don’t have a chance of winning this motherbleeper.”
There are many reasons the Steelers might lay an egg tonight at Heinz Field as they try to play an important football game on a short week.
But the Panthers have one more very important reason they’ll likely be the team in trouble: they’ll be showing up in their road whites.