The Steelers broke a Thanksgiving tradition Thursday by actually winning on Thanksgiving.
Except maybe for Antonio Brown‘s first career game with three touchdown catches, nothing happened in the Steelers’ 28-7 win at Indianapolis that will be talked about a decade or two from now.
Pat McAfee‘s successful fake punt is just the kind of thing that tends to happen to the Steelers on Thanksgiving, but it ultimately will be washed away from memory because it had little to do with the game’s outcome.
From the standpoint of the national TV audience, it was a pretty boring game.
But for the Steelers on Thanksgiving, boring is good. They’ll take boring, because this uneventful game will not add to their archive of infamous Thanksgiving moments.
Like when they lost 45-3 at Detroit in 1983. Or when they lost 19-16 in overtime at Detroit in a 1998 game that forever will be remembered for Phil Luckett’s controversial coin toss.
Luckett is lucky Twitter wasn’t invented in 1998. Mike Tomlin, though, wasn’t so lucky 15 years later. He was memed all over the social media site for having his foot on the field of play and interfering with Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return in a 22-20 Thanksgiving loss to the Ravens.
The giant turkey legs Ben Roethlisberger, Brown and Le’Veon Bell consumed on NBC after the game should have a place in the trophy case that holds the Lombardis on the South Side. This was the Steelers’ first Thanksgiving win since 1950, breaking a four-game losing streak on the holiday.
Finally, the Steelers have turned Black Friday into Black and Gold Friday, and they picked up their first win on any Thursday since 2011.
But winning alone wasn’t enough for the Steelers to put to rest their Thursday curse. The other part of it was getting through the game relatively healthy.
Even when the Steelers have won on Thursdays, some of those wins have been costly.
In 2007, the Steelers won at St. Louis on a Thursday night but lost Willie Parker to a broken leg and went down in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
In 2009, the Steelers beat the Titans in the season opener on a Thursday night but Troy Polamalu left the game with a knee injury and ended up playing just five games that year. The Steelers were 4-1 in the games he played and 5-6 in the games he missed. Their 9-7 record wasn’t good enough to get them into the playoffs.
In 2011, Roethlisberger suffered a high-ankle sprain in a 14-3 Thursday-night win over the Browns at Heinz Field. He only missed one of the Steelers’ three remaining regular-season games, but he wasn’t the same and the Steelers fell to Tim Tebow and the Broncos in the first round of the playoffs.
The last two times the Steelers won on Thursday without a season-derailing injury were 2008 and 2010, the last two years they went to the Super Bowl.
That’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t mean that Thursday’s win will catapult the Steelers into Super Bowl LI. Beating the winless Browns and the Scott Tolzien-led Colts proves little, although it does put the Steelers (6-5) in a better position to win the AFC North, which is their best bet to make the playoffs.
The Ravens would tie them for the division lead if they beat the Bengals at home Sunday, but the Ravens’ remaining opponents combine for a 28-22-1 record. The aggregate record of the Steelers’ remaining opponents is 20-30-1, a figure skewered by the Steelers’ Week 17 home game against the Browns. The Steelers have the schedule on their side in this two-horse race.
The Steelers host the Ravens in Week 16 on Christmas Day. Winning that game will be at least as important as winning Pennsylvania in the electoral college.
It will be the first time in their history that the Steelers play on Dec. 25, and it would be no time to start another holiday curse.
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