2020 Steelers Season Recall: Steelers-Titans postponed at the last moment
Steel City Underground presents our 2020 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.
When I made the call to start doing SCU’s weekly Recall column, it wasn’t just something designed to fill a slot during a slow offseason. No, the intended purpose of the articles was to refresh the memories of those with short ones – as we often forget things which transpired only a half a year earlier.
One of the ongoing narratives following the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers season is that the team wasn’t good, or that their record was inflated by a “weak” schedule, or that certain players doomed the team.
While cases can be made for all of the above, the chief obstacle of the Steelers 2020 regular season is that it wasn’t regular. With COVID-19 precautions in place league-wide, certain on-the-spot demands were made of some teams.
The most egregious of those mandates didn’t affect the Steelers: that would be the Broncos playing a wide receiver at quarterback with hours of preparation. However, the Black and Gold would suffer their share of setbacks, starting with Week 4.
The 3-0 Pittsburgh Steelers were scheduled to face the also undefeated 3-0 Titans in Nashville, with a 1pm Sunday kickoff. That time would be pushed back to a later date, but the Steelers (and Titans) weren’t notified of the change until later in the week, on a Thursday morning.
Several Titans players and coaches were affected by the virus, and as the first game affected by the pandemic, the NFL took a kneejerk approach to how it handled the game.
Schedule update pic.twitter.com/jjlS6clr8l
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) October 2, 2020
Why do I call it a kneejerk reaction?
First, the league would in fact play games under less than desirable conditions later in the season, including the aforementioned Broncos game (which could’ve been set back a day or so to allow for the lack of any available quarterback to play) or later situations which affected the Steelers too, including a long-postponed game with the Ravens that saw a bunch of Baltimore’s starters sit out. (Or even the Cleveland Browns being without their head coach for a playoff game.)
Instead, the league forged ahead with forcing the Steelers into their bye at the earliest slot available. Instead of having their break following, what are always brutal contests with the Ravens, their Week 7 matchup would switch to a road game against Tennessee then the Steelers would again travel to face the Ravens in Week 8 at Baltimore.
If that doesn’t seem fair, the circumstances are worse than just shuffling the deck of games. The Steelers would now have to play 13-straight games without rest. Instead of gaining a break in action following a game with one of their most physical opponents, they would instead play back-to-back games on the road heading into that same opponent, Baltimore, having their bye moved up one week so that they’d be well-rested to face the Steelers.
Ultimately the result didn’t instantly impact Pittsburgh, who would surge to an 11-0 start. Yet, one has to wonder if the erratic handling of the Titans game, which could’ve possibly been rescheduled a day or two later, negatively affected the Steelers later in the year as a lack of rest contributed to injuries, and then losses.
To further expound on how the bye week change was unfair to the Steelers, the team had practiced as if they had a Sunday game. During Week 4 they were business as usual; then were notified of a postponement Thursday morning. The Steelers would also practice Thursday, before an actual day and time change would be announced Friday around lunchtime.
That meant that the Steelers not only had 13-straight weeks of football games to look forward to, but they also had a full 17-straight weeks of a rigid practice schedule.