2020 South Side Questions: Can Pre-Game Dancing Really Fire Up An Opponent To Perform Better?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Does it actually make a difference on the field when a team is ‘bothered’ by something another player does (e.g. JuJu Smith-Schuster recording center-field dances prior to games)?

Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s pre-game dance on the Buffalo Bills’ logo before the game has become a topic of conversation in recent days, after a couple of Bills players acknowledged after the game—when prompted by questions from members of the media—that they took notice of it and that it ‘fired them up’.

Setting aside the conversation as to whether or not Smith-Schuster meant any disrespect in his action, or whether or not his action was even disrespectful in the first place, what is being addressed here is whether or not some external motivation like being annoyed by something another player did before a game can actually, in some way, affect the result of said game.

Did Jordan Poyer, who was the player to address the question about Smith-Schuster’s dancing post-game, actually perform better than he would have otherwise because he was annoyed by an act that he interpreted as disrespectful? Is this ‘bulletin board material’, and does bulletin board material actually make teams play better?

A lot of people seem to believe that. I do not. I certainly don’t think the Steelers lost because a wide receiver danced at midfield before the game was played. I don’t believe the Bills’ defense did better because they were mad. I don’t believe they even gave it much thought at all while they were on the field.

Besides, Smith-Schuster was one of the Steelers’ better players on either side of the ball on the day, so they certainly didn’t take their anger out on him.

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