The Pittsburgh Steelers are returning the Heinz Field to take on the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season. It has been a small break for the team as they last played on Thursday, December 9. As the Steelers get ready for their final quarter of the season, it was nice to have at least a slight rest as they head into the most important part of the 2021 campaign.
With the Steelers getting a few extra days to stop and reset before their preparation, it raised an interesting question. How have the Pittsburgh Steelers performed coming out of a Thursday game?
This was a question I tackled on the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast. Going all the way back to 2007, the first year of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, I looked at how the Steelers performed in the game following their Thursday night matchup.
It should be noted that the Steelers did not play a game on Thursday during the 2020 season. Although they were scheduled to play on Thanksgiving night, the Steelers game got bumped to the following Wednesday afternoon due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Baltimore Ravens organization.
So how have the Steelers done following Thursday night games? The biggest statistic that jumps out is the fact that they have won seven-straight games in the week following their Thursday matchup.
Yes, you read that correctly: Seven straight wins.
In the seven victories, four of them came on the road for the Steelers while three were at home. Additionally, two wins occurred in the 2015 season as the Steelers played in Week 1 on Thursday night as well as another matchup later in the season.
The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a game the week following a Thursday matchup was in 2013 when they fell at home to the Miami Dolphins 28–34. In a crazy season for the Steelers, they started off the year 0–4 only to climb their way back in a playoff contention. After losing by two points to the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night in the infamous “Tomlin trip” game, the Steelers entered December hosting the Miami Dolphins on a snow-covered Heinz Field. After what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown as time expired, Antonio Brown actually stepped out of bounds at the 12 yard line and Steelers fell by six points to the Dolphins. After winning their final three games, the fraction of an inch in which Brown hit the sidelines ultimately cost the Steelers a chance at a post-season run.
As for the rest of Mike Tomlin‘s tenure, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 11–4 in games following a Thursday night matchup. Of those four games, one was the aforementioned matchup against the Dolphins. Another loss came in 2011 on Monday Night Football in San Francisco in the infamous “Blackout” game where the lights went out in the stadium before kickoff. The Steelers also fell in Chicago in 2009 in Week 2 after opening the season as Super Bowl champions in a home victory over the Titans. The only other loss for the Steelers following a Thursday game came in Coach Tomlin’s first season in 2007 when the Steelers had a Thursday night game in Week 16 and then rested several of their starters in Baltimore the next week.
Coming out of Thursday games, the Steelers have not hosted their next match up very often. In fact, they have only been in the home team in five of the 15 matchups going 4-1 with the only loss being against the Dolphins. Additionally, that 2013 loss is the only game in which the Steelers fell in defeat the next week after losing their Thursday night matchup in the Mike Tomlin era.
Will all these numbers translate to a victory for the Steelers on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field? We won’t know until the scoreboard hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter. But if it comes down to preparation and game planning, it appears having the extra time has been a good thing for the Steelers under Mike Tomlin.
To listen to the entire Steelers Stat Geek podcast, including an update on Bud Dupree‘s calculation into the compensatory formula as well as the statistical matchup breakdown between the Steelers and Titans, it can be heard in the player below: