The National Football League loves Thursday Night Football. Why? It brings in boat loads of money in television contracts and other streams of revenue.
The players in the National Football League hate Thursday Night Football. Why? After playing on Sunday they are forced to forego their usual routines and treatment to get ready to play a game just days after their previous game.
Regardless of which side of the fence you reside on, the Pittsburgh Steelers are faced with the challenge of taking their show on the road in Week 14 for Thursday Night Football vs. the Minnesota Vikings.
If anyone knows the challenges which arise when dealing with a short work week, it’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But before getting into details of the abridged scheduled on the short week, it should be noted Roethlisberger’s stat line on Thursday nights is, well, tremendous.
This per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In his past three Thursday night starts, Ben Roethlisberger has 12 touchdowns with no interceptions and a 142.0 passer rating. He needs 242 yards to become the sixth player in league history with 3,000 passing yards in 15 seasons.— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) December 6, 2021
The majority of those starts mentioned by Dulac were at the friendly confines of Heinz Field. In fact, the last time a Ben Roethlisberger led Steelers team played on the road on Thursday night was in 2016 when they played the Indianapolis Colts on Thanksgiving night.
Playing on a short week means all hands on deck to get the players’ bodies ready for a quick turnaround, and for someone with Roethlisberger’s experience it means calling on all the experts to help.
“Just have as many people help as you can: chiropractors, masseuses, training staff.” Roethlisberger said. “Getting in the pools and just doing whatever you can to get yourself ready. Everyone has to do this throughout the year. I don’t think anybody really likes it except for the NFL and all the money that they make. Players, it’s tough. Obviously, the back end of it is the benefit, right? The weekend, some type off. That only really feels good if you get the win. But you’ve just got to find a way, really.”
The physical aspect of getting your body right is one thing, but what about from a team perspective? Will the Steelers’ game plan be shortened, or condensed, due to not having as much time for film study?
“Yes and no. Potentially.” Roethlisberger answered. “We’ll have to rely more on stuff we know. If you look at what we’ve installed, we don’t have a bunch of new stuff; stuff that last week, two weeks ago, we’ve done so that guys can try and play faster on a short week. To your point, yeah, a little bit.”
Everyone loves to bash Thursday night games, including fans, but for Roethlisberger there is one thing which he can look forward to in Week 14 and that would be the weather. In case you didn’t know, the Vikings play in a dome, meaning a week of nice weather for the aging quarterback.
“Yeah, weather-wise, it’ll be great.” Roethlisberger said. “I have not played in this stadium but I’ve heard it’s as loud as any, so that will be, obviously, a huge disadvantage to us in terms of dealing with what we have to deal with.”
The Steelers enter Week 14 with a 6-5-1 record, and are the 8th team in the current AFC Playoff Picture. There is still a lot which can happen in the jumbled up AFC, but if the Steelers can beat the Vikings and advance to 7-5-1 they would do themselves a lot of favors when it comes to their chances of making the postseason.
Is this game a must-win game? Technically, it isn’t, but the players are taking that must-win approach to every game for the duration of the regular season.
“We keep saying when I talk to y’all every week, “It’s a must win.” When you get to the playoffs, it’s must wins.” Roethlisberger said regarding the rest of the team’s schedule. “Because of the hole, or whatever you wanna say, that we’ve dug ourselves into—and even though we’re not really in a hole because of the way the AFC is—we’re still behind some teams and have to do some work. We can’t let up. Every game’s a must win. Every game’s a playoff type, playoff caliber game. That’s the approach we have to take moving forward the rest of the way.”
The Steelers beating the Vikings won’t be easy, but with Minnesota missing some big name players they will have a great opportunity to steal a win before getting some much needed rest during the mini-bye.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Vikings in Week 14 on a short week.