Maybe it was just me, but as I was listening to sports talk radio on Monday morning, I thought I heard linebacker Ryan Shazier and other Steelers players citing bye-week rust as the reason for the team's mostly-lackluster showing in a 20-17 victory over the Colts on Sunday.
If it wasn't just me, then I'm even more baffled, because I'm pretty sure most players said they were really looking forward to their mid-season break, shortly after they’d outlasted the Lions, 20-15, two weeks earlier.
Speaking of Monday, mere hours after I heard the "rust" word uttered a few times, I listened to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's weekly radio segment on 93.7 The Fan, during which he dropped the very predictable nugget that he really, really, really hates Thursday Night Football.
Why was that a point of discussion on this week's show? Because the Steelers will be taking on the Titans Thursday night at Heinz Field. In other words, the players and coaches will have to face another opponent on only three days rest, and they’ll have very little time to prepare an adequate game plan.
But, wait a minute, wasn't that bye-week supposed to "iron things out"?
So let me get this straight—the bye-week in which you were supposed to be ironing things out actually left you a little rusty, while this short week will leave you little time to prepare from a physical, mental or X's and O's standpoint?
I get it....I think.
But wait a minute, weren't the Steelers thought to be at a disadvantage while preparing for two of their most-recent opponents--the Bengals and Lions—who both had an extra week to "iron things out" and would unfortunately be too rested, refreshed and full of knowledge to defeat?
So when the Steelers take on the Packers 10 days after their ill-prepared contest against Tennessee, will Green Bay, who won't be coming off a bye, be at a disadvantage due to its opponent having a few extra days to "iron things out," or will Pittsburgh be just too rusty from the extra rest to compete?
In case you didn't know, most NFL players and coaches are obsessed with time and their routine. Perhaps that's why the league did away with Week 17 Monday Night Football a long time ago—God help us all, if a team ever again has one less day to prepare for a wild-card game.
Remember the 2002 playoffs, when Bill Cowher acted as if each of his players would be competing with one arm tied behind his back because they had to travel to play the Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs a mere six days after outlasting the Browns in the wild-card game?
Remember last January in the team locker room following the 18-16 victory over the Chiefs in the divisional playoff game, when Antonio Brown captured some audio of head coach Mike Tomlin lamenting the fact that those bleep-holes, the Patriots, would have an extra day and a half to prepare for the AFC title game?
But an extra day and a half.....shouldn't New England have been rusty, Coach?
Remember when the 2005 Colts wrapped up the AFC's top seed around Thanksgiving and, weeks later, people cited the rust factor for them falling to the sixth-seeded Steelers, who came into the divisional round "red hot," after having to win their last four regular season games to clinch a wild-card spot?
Speaking of the AFC's top seed at 7-2, Pittsburgh is fighting fiercely to clinch that in 2017 (or at least the No. 2 seed and a bye).
But wait a minute, if the Steelers do have an extra week to prepare for their first playoff game, will they be at an advantage or totally screwed?
I mean, let's face it, if the Steelers keep winning as consistently as they have for the past year, there’s no way to avoid a bye and, consequently, no way to avoid accumulating rust as they sit around and watch the wild-card games.
But what if their divisional-round opponent comes into Heinz Field to play a Saturday afternoon game, just six days after surviving a Sunday evening wild-card overtime win?
Will the Steelers be too rested and full of knowledge to lose to a weary opponent, or will Pittsburgh be too rusty to take on a team that's riding high on momentum and wearing t-shirts reading, "No Tomorrow"?
I gotta tell ya, it's quite the conundrum.
Bye, no bye, or short week—it's hard to say what will screw the Steelers the most.