Back in mid-October, some members of the Pittsburgh Steelers—even if they were Florida boys—struggled to keep themselves together in the Miami heat. Even though he played his college ball in Florida, that was the annual game in which Lawrence Timmons was vomiting up on the field—and I mean that literally, not figuratively.
The temperature difference from that game to today’s is a swing of about 60 degrees, moving from mid-Autumn Miami to Pittsburgh in the heart of winter. Much of the northeast coast has just seen a good amount of snowball (I myself spent a part of my birthday yesterday shoveling), and it is expected to be just 19 degrees at kickoff.
The Dolphins don’t think it will be an issue. Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t think it will be an issue. But will it?
Said current starting center Kraig Urbik, who played his college ball in Wisconsin and spent his first season in the league with the Steelers, “when you’re out there playing, you’re focusing on your plays and things like that; you don’t really notice the weather. You notice it if you’re standing there on the sideline, but we’ve got heated seats and those propane things, all that stuff. So it’s really not a big deal”.
But this is an uncommon cold for the Dolphins. In fact, it is expected to be the third-coldest game on record for Miami, and the coldest in over eight years, when it was just 10 degrees in Kansas City. The Dolphins won that game, 38-31. They lost, 14-10, to the Patriots in 14-degree weather back in 1977.
Of course, more recently, they beat the Steelers in 2013 in the snow at Heinz Field. So maybe it really isn’t all that much of a factor.
Yet long snapper John Denney, who was there for that 2008 game, acknowledged that “elements always come into play”, and recalled that several players changed their cleats at halftime to ones more akin to regular sneakers due to the fact that the playing field was frozen over and the spikes decreased their mobility.
“You’ve just got to be able to manage the best you can”, Denney said. “Moisture, that’s the biggest thing for me. I would prefer sub-zero temperatures over what we had [in the rain] this year against Arizona”. He talked about what it’s like to play in the cold.
“You can’t whip it. You can’t be quick”, he said. “You try to snap it, it’s going to slip out of your hand. It’s like trying to toss a bar of wet soap back there. You’ve got to be gradual with your acceleration”.
The Steelers will be looking for any edge they can possibly get in this Wildcard matchup, and if they sense that they can gain an edge by playing to the elements, as they did in Buffalo, then they will take advantage of that. But neither side particularly seems to think that will come up.