After all, Pittsburgh went from a slight favorite to a Tom Brady vs. Landry Jones favorite, after it became apparent that Andrew Luck would miss Thursday’s game with a concussion he sustained this past Sunday.
With only six weeks left in a season that currently has the Steelers at 5-5 and seemingly only one way into the postseason—as AFC North champions—this is the kind of break they needed to get a leg-up on Baltimore in the race for the division title.
If the Steelers can take advantage of this (and they’re nine-point favorites to do so), they would improve to 6-5 and temporarily own a half-game lead over the Ravens, who have a home date with thorn-in-the-side Cincinnati this Sunday before embarking on an insanely tough down-the-stretch schedule.
So, feel good about Pittsburgh’s prospects on Thursday, because if that game doesn’t result in a victory, you’d have every right to sit in your recliner with that numb feeling that can only come from a loss to, well....Ryan Mallett.
You see, in Luck’s place will be career back up Scott Tolzien, who has a grand-total of 721 professional passing yards to his name. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s not much less than what Mallett had on his resume, when he took on the Steelers in Week 16 of the 2015 season, just days after Baltimore signed him off the streets to take the place of the injured Joe Flacco’s struggling replacements.
The Steelers entered M&T Bank Stadium with a 9-5 record and their playoff fate in their own hands. They left Baltimore with a 9-6 mark and in need of a huge favor from Rex Ryan and the Bills, following a 28 of 41 for 274 yards and one touchdown performance by Mallett in a 20-17 loss to the Ravens.
The Steelers got lucky, thanks to Ryan’s ability to motivate his players in a meaningless-to-them season finale versus the Jets a week later, and they just might get lucky again this year, if they Ryan Mallett things, Thursday evening against Tolzien and the Colts.
But, good teams—Super Bowl contenders—don’t let these kinds of opportunities slip by. Do you think anyone in New England—including the coach, fans and players—thought the Patriots would lose, after they were installed as 10-point road favorites following the news that Ben Roethlisberger would miss the game at Heinz Field with a torn meniscus?
Of course they didn’t.
The Steelers need to have that same kind of mindset Thanksgiving night. I don’t mean a sense of complacency, where they think they can just throw their helmets on the field and walk away with a win; I’m talking about a business-like approach, where they enter the contest knowing that leaving without a win would be absolutely unacceptable, unacceptable to them, their bosses and their other bosses (the fans).
Opportunities like this don’t come around very often, but when they do, they must be taken advantage of.
The Steelers haven’t won on Thanksgiving day since I started following them, some 36 years ago. If it takes a victory over Scott Tolzien to finally break that streak, I’m perfectly fine with it.
At the end of the day, if a victory over an Andrew Luckless Colts team is what propels the Steelers into the playoffs, I’ll be fine with that, too.
They just better take care of business and not Ryan Mallett it.