With two former Pittsburgh Steelers going into Canton this fall and another two as finalists who will be announced the night before the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers are already bracing to be one of the teams playing in the league’s annual Hall of Fame game which kicks off the NFL preseason. While seeing their favorite team play in the game is a bonus during the weekend in which many fans will travel to Canton for the Hall of Fame activities, the current players and staff are slightly inconvenienced by being selected.
By playing an extra preseason game, training camp will begin a week earlier and therefore makes a slightly shorter off-season for players. And with an extra game, an extra potential for injury also enters the equation. The last time the Steelers played in the Hall of Fame game, they lost kicker Shaun Suisham to a knee injury which not only ended his season, but also his career in the NFL. Poor field conditions were believed to come in to play with Suisham’s injury, and the following season the field conditions in Canton were so poor the NFL canceled the game.
So not only do teams have the inevitable risk of playing an extra game, teams who have played in the Hall of Fame game have not had much postseason success in recent years. Over the past 15 seasons, only two teams who have played in the Hall of Fame game have managed a postseason victory. In seven of the 13 years in which games were played, neither team participating in the game managed to reach the post season.
It should be noted that in two seasons since 2005 there was no game played as part of Hall of Fame weekend. In 2011 the Bears and Rams were scheduled to play but the game was canceled due to the NFLPA lockout by the owners. In 2016 the Packers and Colts were at the field to participate in the game, but the condition of the turf was deemed too much of a risk for the players and the game was canceled.
Of the 26 teams participating in the Hall of Fame game over the last 15 season, eight managed to go to the postseason with only two teams achieving a postseason win. It should be noted the Green Bay Packers in 2016 were scheduled to play in the game and went on to win two playoff games before falling in the NFC Championship. But since they did not ultimately participate in the game, the only two teams to play in the Hall of Fame game since 2005 and achieve a win in the playoffs were the 2006 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers.
So while post-season success has eluded most teams playing in the Hall of Fame game, the Steelers are one team who has gone on to the postseason recently. In fact, both years the Steelers have been in the Hall of Fame game since 2005 (2007 and 2015), they qualified for the playoffs. Unfortunately in 2007, the Steelers fell at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars on wildcard weekend. But in 2015 the Steelers went into Cincinnati and beat the Bengals before falling to the Broncos in Denver in the divisional round with an injury-riddled squad.
While the numbers don’t look good for teams who participate in the Hall of Fame game, the Steelers are one of those teams that manage to buck these kind of trends in the NFL. It was supposedly impossible for a six seed to win the Super Bowl until the Steelers did it in 2005. Perhaps participating in the Hall of Fame game and achieving a Super Bowl win can be the next feat the Steelers can check off their list.