The Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to play two Thursday Night Football games this season which no player is a fan of. And it makes sense why the players hate it, TNF is brutal on the body and honestly should not be played given how quick of a turnaround it is from a game the previous Sunday. However, given the Steelers’ two TNF games will be played at home, I think it could end up actually being beneficial.
A big reason for this is the success of the Steelers when they play at home on TNF. In recent years Steelers fans have seen disastrous performances on Thursdays by their team, but it is important to note that those all came on the road. What happened the last time Pittsburgh hosted a game on Thursday night? They smoked the Carolina Panthers 52-21.
In general Pittsburgh has been excellent on Thursday’s. Since its creation in 2006 the Steelers are 6-1 at home, and if you want to include season openers after the team won a Super Bowl, that record jumps to 8-1. And that one loss was also pretty fluky. Of the non-Week One games, here is Pittsburgh’s game-by-game outcomes.
2018 – 52-21 win vs Carolina
2017 – 40-17 win vs Tennessee
2015 – 23-20 OT loss vs Baltimore
2011 – 14-3 win vs Cleveland
2010 – 27-3 win vs Carolina
2008 – 27-10 win vs Cincinnati
2006 – 27-7 win vs Cleveland
When diving into Pittsburgh’s 2015 “TNF” loss to the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20 in overtime, we have to look at what happened in that game. First, Michael Vick played quarterback for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. While he did not play bad that game, throwing for 124 yards and a touchdown, Roethlisberger would have played better. However, what really sank the team was kicker Josh Scobee missing two field goals. If Scobee connects on just one of those field goals (both in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter with a lead) Pittsburgh wins that game.
Every other home game the Steelers have played on TNF since 2006 has more or less been a blowout. On traditional TNF games (not including season openers) at home the Steelers average 29.5 points per game while allowing only an average of only 12 points per game. Simply put the Steelers are dominant at home on “TNF.”
Pittsburgh isn’t the only team that is really good at home on a short week though. A study done by VSIN.com tracked traditional TNF games from 2012 until Week Eight of 2019 and found the home teams won 59.48% of their games. In 2021 the home team in all games regardless of day of the week it was played had a winning percentage of 51.1%.
While it is not an insane difference, when you factor in Pittsburgh’s dominance at home on TNF they will be at an advantage given they don’t have to travel and lose a valuable day of prep and recovery. With a shortened week every day is super valuable, and the fact the road team has to plan a day for travel cuts into its time for recovery and prep, which is huge when there are only three days off in between games.
Finally, Pittsburgh isn’t playing any juggernauts on TNF either. On paper they aren’t overmatched against either the Tennessee Titans or the New England Patriots. While I wouldn’t go as far to say they are much better than either of those teams, the advantage of being home on TNF will be huge and I think may end up playing a big part in the outcomes for one of those games.