The Steelers are heading to Seattle this Sunday. They currently have a record of 6-4. They are probably going to want to go 4-2 at a minimum in order to make the playoffs. Conveniently enough the Steelers have a better record than 4 of those teams. One of those teams are Seattle though. And Seattle being on the west coast presents a problem.
It’s a problem because the Steelers don’t do well out west for some reason. I guess that’s not really the cause of the problem as much as the problem itself. The cause is unknown but the problem is undeniable. The Steelers just do not fair well west of the Mississippi.
USA Today quoted David DeCastro as saying, of playing across the country, “It’s hard. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t.”
Ramon Foster advised, “We have to be on point with what we’re doing and not focus on the flight, the time change and all the other stuff. We have to be sharp. No false starts. No mental mistakes.”
Tomlin echoed those thoughts as well, saying, “If we are playing well, if we minimize negativity, it will aid our efforts in terms of making that a variable that’s less significant than it can be.”
That’s all fine and good as far as being aware of the problem but the problem undeniably exists. Since 2010 the Steelers have been 3-8 when travelling west of the Mississippi river. They were 53-32 overall during that time period. So that Steelers, a .624 team, when travelling west, suddenly become a .300 team. We’re talking about a team that becomes half as good when they have to fly more than 2 hours.
Oddly enough, the Steelers travelling issues don’t seem to translate when they’re travelling south. They are 3-0 when travelling south more than 2 hours but still being east of the Mississippi river.
What can we make of this though? Is it in their routine or the weather? Well we can glean from the fact that it doesn’t impact the team in Florida or Georgia that the time difference is probably a big issue. Its certainly a strange difference. Imagine changing 3 or 4 time zones, and then playing a professional football game.
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Maybe the Steelers could leave earlier, that way they have more time to adjust to the time shift. Maybe its a matter of diet or preparation. More rest, or maybe more activity. Whatever it is the Steelers need to figure it out.
The weather could also make a difference. The humidity as well. Again, leaving as early as possible could be a good move. But the Steelers being a speed based team should actually provide some offsetting impact. Speed based teams traditionally perform better in warm climates that don’t slow them down.
It could be preparation too. Little things, even culture differences could make an impact. Any number of things about being so far away could make so just the right amount of people feel the right amount of off. However the additional preparation afforded by a bye week is kind of a lucky break and should minimize the impact of the trip to Seattle.
On top of that, Seattle and Pittsburgh are not totally alien experiences. Both can be cold and humid and neither are known for great weather.
The Steelers post-bye week as a whole should help with the situation too. Tomlin has one of the best post-bye week records in the NFL. Under Tomlin the Steelers have done pretty well for themselves with a .750 record. During the same time the NFL as a whole has only been able to barely get over .500.
And there’s even extra reason to be optimistic about the bye week effect overtaking the west effect. Since 2010 the Steelers have been 2-0 in away games after a bye week including 1-0 out west.
If nothing else, the Steelers needed the time to get healthier. With injuries all over the place, including some like Bell that won’t be healing any time soon, the Steelers certainly needed some time to rest and get ready for this last playoff push.
So at the end of the day it’s a pain to travel out of your time zone. You’re groggy and you’re tired. But it doesn’t matter now. The Steelers have plenty of motivation to make this last playoff push and other factors that play in their favor. They’ve already won a game on the west coast already. Let’s hope the Steelers continue to break the curse.