A lot of people, including players, don’t like to admit that games played in prime time are a bit different from those played during the course of the afternoon. It’s largely psychological, but it carries with it a unique atmosphere that humans can’t help but respond to in a different manner.
As many have pointed out over the course of the past couple of days, the Pittsburgh Steelers seem pretty obviously to be a team that responds better to the limelight than most teams do, and than even they do compared to afternoon games.
Will Graves of the Associated Press shared the statistic that they have won each of their past 10 games in prime time, and are averaging slightly more than 30 points per game in doing so. That includes scoring more than 30 points in each of their past two games.
“I feel like you do get a little amped up about it”, starting guard Ramon Foster told Graves about playing under the lights. “When you get a little bit of adversity in primetime games, some teams cave, some teams rise to it”.
The ninth-year veteran tries to do his part to inspire his teammates to step up for the game, reminding them that they are the show for the night—that everybody is watching them. “For everybody that said you weren’t going to make it, this is why” they play, he told them.
There is something to be said, I think, regarding what Foster said above. I do think that the human psyche plays into how players, and teams as a whole, respond to the attention and the focus, and shapes how they react to failure, whether they overcome it or cede to it.
The Steelers are a seasoned team, even among their young players, who have frequent experience playing in prime time during the regular season (at least four games a season, and usually the maximum five) as well as having played six postseason games over the past three years.
So this is a team that is more accustomed to the attention than most are, which I believe is indeed something that plays to their advantage. They have two more games under the lights coming up one after the other, after having already just played two in a row, so they are certainly in that mindset already.
It should serve as a primer for the postseason, getting used to the high-intensity atmosphere of late games. Even their two games after will be in the evening rather than in the afternoon, with only the season finale being a 1 PM kickoff, only because all games are played at 1 PM for the finale.
While Ben Roethlisberger wonders if the team is “just night rangers” and doesn’t know if “there’s any secret recipe” to being successful in primetime games, the Steelers are clearly on to something over the course of the past three years.