How postponing the Thanksgiving night game to Sunday once again screws the Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers get screwed again. That seems to be the modus operandi for the 2020 season, as another opportunity for the unbeaten Black and Gold gets taken away, as well as their competitive advantage against AFC North rival Baltimore.

Scheduled to be played Thanksgiving evening at 8:20pm, the Steelers-Ravens game has been pushed back to Sunday afternoon, per the league, due to COVID-19 concerns:

There are different camps of thought out there – such as, why are the players upset about not playing on a short week?

Well, that train of thought is well-founded. For starters, the Steelers and Ravens are heated rivals. The primetime game is positioned with Pittsburgh having home field advantage, which is typically a big advantage when playing on Thursday nights (with the home teams usually ending up the victor).

It was also slated to be the final home game with fans in attendance, as Pennsylvania ramps up coronavirus precautions beginning on Friday, November 27th. It is unknown at this time if an exemption will be made for fans or not.

Then there’s more to the competitive advantage the Steelers would’ve had other than being the host for the game. On the short week, the Baltimore Ravens are coming off of back-to-back losses against two physical opponents: the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. In each of those games the Ravens had given up 173 yards rushing, while their offensive line has been in further flux.

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On a short week, the Ravens could’ve been without several key players including DE Calais Campbell, OLB Matthew Judon, and CB Jimmy Smith. With the COVID precautions in place, the Ravens were doing virtual meetings while another key defensive playmaker, DT Brandon Williams, had been placed on the COVID reserve list due to contact tracing.

While Williams may have still played, the longer break allows Campbell, Judon, and others to heal up for what is no doubt a desperate Ravens franchise who has fallen to 6-4 and in third-place in the AFC North, behind the Cleveland Browns.

A loss to the Steelers will seriously impact the Ravens probability of making the postseason as well.

That’s sweet music to Steelers fans, who would’ve felt ever more confident with a Thursday kickoff that saw the Ravens top two running backs, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, each testing positive for COVID-19 and ruled out for the game. At the time of this writing their quarantine process and further testing is TBD, but it would appear they still could not be ready to suit up for the revised Sunday kickoff.

If the Ravens were to get either player back, it goes without saying that’s yet another competitive blow for the Steelers. However, here’s the one that really hurts: the Steelers now lose their mini-bye week.

With the game originally slated to be played Thursday, the Steelers would get an extended period of time off – much needed after COVID-19 complications with the Titans forced Pittsburgh to move their bye week from Week 8 to Week 4 – the earliest allowable.

Don’t forget, the Steelers forced bye week meant they still had prepared to play on Sunday and didn’t take the usual days off they would have normally.

That switch also benefitted the Baltimore Ravens. Originally, the Steelers and Ravens were to meet in Week 7, with each team getting a bye the week after. With these games taking a physical toll, the Ravens were gifted a Week 7 bye heading into the change to a Week 8 matchup. That toll showed the following week when the Steelers had to travel for their third-straight road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Turnabout would’ve been fair play this time, since the Steelers faced the then unbeaten Titans on the road and then a well-rested Ravens team. Instead, the Ravens catch another break by having Thursday’s game moved to Sunday.

Some people will say “big deal” and “just beat them on Sunday”. I get that sentiment, but both of these games against the Ravens have given a competitive advantage to the Steelers opponent, and not the other way around, when Pittsburgh isn’t the team at fault for any violations or virus concerns.

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In that way the Steelers are being unfairly penalized once again, losing the short-week advantage as well as a needed mini-bye to rest up before hosting Washington. The only saving grace could be two Steelers who are facing their own dings: JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe) and Joe Haden (knee).

That could help Pittsburgh be at full strength, yet, the Steelers had already limited snaps in their handedly defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars, with their defense only playing 56 snaps and many of their starters rotating out.

In that regard it still feels unfair for the Steelers to once again have their hand forced in this manner, particularly with a perfect season on the line. I suspect when the teams do square up, the Steelers will now have an even bigger chip on their shoulder and take care of business – they’ll just have to do it making even more adjustments and hurdling the never-ending obstacles placed in their path.

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