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Travel changes for Steelers could affect game performance early on

NFL teams, and really I think most sports teams are creatures of habit. You hear all the time about coaches and players preferring to stay in a routine during the week whenever possible. When confronted with a unique situation they’ll downplay the change whenever possible but still, players are human too and have to adjust. The Steelers this week will have to jump out of that comfort zone and find a way to deal with the circumstances dealt to them for their road game in New York this Sunday.

Obviously the Giants, living in New York, have much more to deal with over a longer period of time than the Steelers do, but still it’s something different for everyone.

Due to Hurricane Sandy, the Steelers were not able to find a hotel to stay at so they will have to fly into New York on Sunday morning, have a pregame meal and then take a bus over as reported by – NFL teams normally leave for away games no later than Saturday afternoon, but the Steelers instead will leave Pittsburgh on Sunday morning and return immediately after the game.

The Jersey City hotel where the team had planned to stay is still without electricity, and the state of New Jersey was heavily impacted by the storm. Instead of changing hotels, and in doing so taking up rooms that displaced residents could use, the Steelers got approval from Commissioner Roger Goodell to make it a one-day trip so as not to add any unnecessary strain to the area’s resources.

It’s a class move by the Steelers to say the least, trying to make their impact on the city as little as possible in terms of disrupting cleanup efforts, etc.

There was some talk about the game being moved to Monday night, or perhaps being moved back to Pittsburgh; with the latter being the more likely of the two. The NFL caught a huge amount of flack during Katrina when they took a home game away from the Saints, so they weren’t about to go down that road again unless it was absolutely necessary. Ultimately MetLife Stadium will be able to host the game fortunately, keeping the competitive balance intact for both teams.

The real question will be, how will the Steelers handle flying in and playing a game on the same day? It’s only about a 1 hour flight so there shouldn’t much in the way of jet lag or anything of that nature. James Harrison tweeted out, ” I don’t think I have traveled and played a game on the same since high school”.

These guys are professional athletes, they’re used to traveling and playing in tough circumstances so in theory they should be fine although don’t be surprised if you see them come out  a bit sluggish early on in the game. With kickoff at 4:25 they at least have some time to relax before the game starts but nothing near to what they are normally accustomed to simply because of leaving Pittsburgh in the morning. They’ll still have time to warm up of course, and all of the game planning is already in place by now so it’s just a matter of adjusting mentally to the change.

The Giants will be playing with heavy hearts and many things that can be a distraction on the field; who could blame them with the devastation all around their city after all.  It will be interesting to see how they come out early in the game; if their intensity and execution is on target or not. Both teams could spend the first quarter or so with each making their share of mistakes until they get settled into the flow of the game.

We often see teams rise to the occasion under adverse circumstances, playing inspired football for the fans and the city alike. The Steelers will have to match the intensity of the Giants in that regard and not let the things going on around them be a distraction. As much as we feel for the people of New York, the NFL goes on and this game is absolutely huge for the Steelers especially. After winning 2 in a row against teams like the Bengals and Redskins this game coming up is clearly a litmus test for Pittsburgh. Even if it is against an NFC team, every win keeps the momentum going as they try to climb back into the driver’s seat in the AFC North.

The Bengals are hosting Peyton Manning and the Broncos, while the Ravens are traveling to Cleveland for a divisional matchup. These AFC North games are always unpredictable but even if anything can happen, the Steelers can’t count on the Ravens losing; they must take care of business and beat the Giants.

Should the Steelers lose, we’ll hear all the excuses of “well the Giants are the defending champs for a reason” or ” the Giants were playing inspired football”, the “Steelers had travel issues to deal with”, etc.  There are no excuses in the NFL; great teams figure out a way to overcome the hand their dealt. This is a must win game, no question about it and the Steelers have a great opportunity to show everyone, including themselves, that they are back and capable of winning against elite teams.




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