It’s been pointed out in this space how the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to have better seasons when they avoid the spotlight in Week 1.
The Steelers’ 2013 opener at home against the Tennessee Titans is the type of laid-back matchup that kicked off their last three Super Bowl seasons.
It’s also one of nine games the Steelers play against teams that missed the playoffs in 2012.
It won’t look that way in October and November, however.
The Steelers won’t have any problem getting into the spirit of Halloween. There are plenty of witches, ghosts and goblins to greet them.
After their bye in Week 5, the Steelers have three of their next four games on the road. Their one home game in the spooky month of October is against the Baltimore Ravens, a team named for a foreboding bird in American literature.
The Steelers play at the New York Jets Oct. 13 and on Oct. 20 host the Ravens, who haven’t lost at Pittsburgh since 2009. Their last game before Halloween is in front of the NFL’s most frightening fans. They play the Raiders at Oakland Oct. 27.
Pittsburgh hasn’t won on the West Coast since beating the San Diego Chargers in 2005. The Steelers won Super Bowl XL that year, which suggests they need championship talent to win out West. There’s no indication they have that in 2013.
There will be no reprieve after Oakland for the Steelers. This brutal stretch ends against the most ghoulish of NFL characters, Bill Belichick.
All Halloween allegory aside, the NFL assigned the Steelers a West Coast trip followed by a trip to Gillette Stadium Nov. 3. The Steelers defeated the Patriots the last time they were there in 2008, but that was against Matt Cassel, not Tom Brady. The Steelers are 2-6 all-time against Brady, and both of those wins came at Heinz Field.
As if it’s not bad enough that October and early November promise more tricks than treats for the Steelers, they have to play on Thanksgiving, a holiday in which they’ve experienced true horror.
The Steelers are at Baltimore Thanksgiving night. It’s hard enough for the Steelers to win at Baltimore, but it’s even harder for them to win on Thanksgiving.
In 1983, the Lions essentially had the Steelers for Thanksgiving dinner, humiliating them 45-3. The Steelers started that season 9-2 and that loss in Detroit was one of four in their last five games. They made a quick playoff exit, losing 38-10 to the Raiders at Los Angeles.
The Steelers again went to Detroit on Turkey Day 15 years later and lost 19-16 in overtime in the infamous Phil Luckett coin flip game. They entered that game 7-4 and finished the season with five straight losses.
Now, another 15 years later, the Steelers get to play on Thanksgiving again. Not exactly something to be thankful for.
The Steelers made one Thanksgiving trip to Dallas, losing 20-10 in 1991, but that was a nondescript loss during a nondescript juncture in Steelers history.
Maybe the Steelers’ luck on Thanksgiving will change because they’re not going to Detroit.
The Ravens might not be the Steelers’ traditional Turkey Day tormenters, but they will be dangerous no matter how much talent they’ve lost. It won’t help that the Steelers will be at Cleveland four days earlier.
Every NFL team plays at least one Thursday game, but the Steelers are the only team this season that has to play two road games in five days.
Thanks for nothing, schedule makers.
The Steelers need all the help they can get on Thursdays. They’re 9-10 all-time on that day. Even some of their Thursday wins have come at an irreparable cost.
Ben Roethlisberger sustained a high-ankle sprain in a 14-3 win over the Browns on a Thursday night in December of 2011. It hastened the Steelers’ playoff demise that year at the hands of Tim Tebow.
As Super Bowl champions in 2009, the Steelers defeated the Tennessee Titans in the Thursday-night opener, but Troy Polamalu hurt his knee. He missed 11 games that season, and the Steelers missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
Willie Parker broke his leg in a Thursday win at St. Louis in 2007. The Steelers made the playoffs that year, but lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a wild-card game.
The Steelers have never played the Ravens on a Thursday. But their Thanksgiving game at Baltimore does follow a trend. Since 2005, all the Steelers’ games at Baltimore except one have come in late November or in December.
Not since 2002 have the Steelers won at Baltimore in any month other than December.
On the other side of the coin, the Steelers are 4-2 at Baltimore in December since the turn of the century. Those two losses came in meaningless regular-season finales in 2003 and 2007.
Ain’t it a kick in the head that Thanksgiving falls on its latest possible date this year? The Steelers’ Nov. 28 game at Baltimore will be so agonizingly close to December.
There’s nothing the Steelers can do about the month in which they play at Baltimore, but there are strategies they can use to beat the Raiders, the Brady-led Patriots and the Browns. Committing less than eight turnovers might be a sound game plan in Cleveland.
If the Steelers can’t accomplish at least one of those tasks, they’ll likely be deep-fried turkeys when they visit the Ravens on Thanksgiving.