The old cliche is that football is 90% mental, 10% physical. Swing those numbers even heavier in favor of the mental aspect this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a short turnaround to get ready for the Carolina Panthers. Kickoff is less than 36 hours away. That’s hardly enough time to recover from bumps and bruises, especially off a physical matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. Knowing all that, JuJu Smith-Schuster said mental reps will be even more critical than usual.
“Preparation, a lot of it is just mental,” he told reporters via Steelers.com. “Running routes, not going full speed. Not going too crazy. Everyone staying up, just trying to stay healthy. As you know, we were in shells today, helmets. Just a lot of mental reps.”
Football players are creatures of habit. Come in for treatment on Monday, meetings later that day, film room throughout the week, practice, maybe a little bit of rest by the end of the week. A habit that gets disrupted on a short week. And sure, both teams have to deal with it. But generally speaking, whichever team handles it better will be the victor on Thursdays.
As we wrote about this morning, the Steelers are expected to run more of their no-huddle offense, giving control over to Ben Roethlisberger. At home, where crowd noise isn’t a factor, it’s a practical approach. Smith-Schuster said having a future Hall of Famer like Roethlisberger makes a big difference.
“It helps out a lot. You talk about a QB who is able to go out there with the offense and be able to run our offense. Run no huddle pretty fast, a pretty good pace, and everyone knows what they’re doing. Makes the game a lot easier.”
With time to gameplan basically cut in half, coaches have to streamline preparation. Which means rolling with your best plays and the concepts installed early in the season. Plays everyone knows and are comfortable with running without many practice reps.
“It’s nothing too crazy,” he said of the preparation. “You got two days, 72 hours, you gotta go with what you got.”
Thursdays have offered mixed results under Mike Tomlin. Since 2007, the Steelers are 7-6 in those games, winning their last two, beating the Colts in 2016 and Titans last season. That broke a five game losing streak from 2012 to 2015. Carolina is rowing a similar boat. They’re 3-4 since Ron Rivera took over in 2011.