Announcement: the Pittsburgh Steelers game has been rescheduled. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. And I know that you have. Seemingly no team has had to been as light on their feet as the Steelers, always seem to be stuck on the other end of a game pushed back by hours, days, or weeks.
Saturday’s news is just the latest example. Pittsburgh’s Wild Card game against Buffalo now shifted from Sunday at 1 PM/EST to Monday at 4:30 PM/EST (and maybe again to Tuesday?)
As a reminder, as if you needed one, here’s a list of Steelers’ games rescheduled throughout their history. We’ll only consider ones moved that were unique to them and not part of a league-wide impact, excluding Week 2 of 2001 season cancelled due to 9/11 or the player strikes of 1982 and 1987.
2023-2024 – Wild Card Game vs Buffalo Bills
From: Sunday at 1 PM
To: Monday at 4:30 PM
Reason: Winter Storm
Starting with the most recent one. As you know by now, a powerful winter storm creating blizzard conditions off Lake Erie caused New York and the NFL to push the game back more than 24 hours. While field conditions weren’t an issue, public safety was, and asking tens of thousands of fans to try and show up to the game would make for a dangerous situation. A travel ban is in effect for Erie County starting at 9 PM/EST Saturday.
Monday’s weather still won’t be pretty. Cold, windy, with some snow, but conditions are expected to be better. Which will work in the Bills’ favor.
2020 – Week 12 Game Vs Baltimore Ravens (Twice)
From: Thanksgiving Night
To: Tuesday Night…and again to Wednesday Afternoon
Reason: Ravens COVID outbreak
Result: 19-14 Steelers Win
The game so nice they had to move it twice. Ok, the actual reason was a COVID outbreak in the Baltimore Ravens’ locker room that made uncertain if they would even be able to field a team along with the obvious close contact and health risks associated with the pandemic.
Initially slated for a marquee Thanksgiving night contest between two rivals, the NFL had to pull the ripcord. The game was first set for Tuesday night, quirky enough as it is, and then postponed a second time to Wednesday at 3:40 PM. Because when I think football, I think Wednesday afternoon.
Ultimately, Pittsburgh won in ugly fashion. The entire game was a sloppy mess, 12 combined penalties, four total turnovers, and the Ravens made it close when QB Trace McSorley hit WR Hollywood Brown for a 70-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh did just enough to hang on but listening to Mike Tomlin’s postgame presser, you would’ve guessed the Steelers had just lost by 30. It led to his now famous response “us sucking” when asked why Pittsburgh struggled in the red zone and dropped so many passes.
2020 – Week 13 Vs Washington Football Team
From: Sunday at 1 PM
To: Monday at 5 PM
Reason: COVID Domino Effect
Result: 23-17 Steelers Loss
As a consequence to the Steelers-Ravens game moving to Wednesday, the Steelers-Football Team (the Washington Commanders, if you had to jog your memory) game was kicked back a day to give Pittsburgh some rest, even if they were still working on a short week. If you thought Wednesday at 3:30 was prime football watchin’, may I interest you in Monday at 5? Now we’re talking.
Entering the game a perfect 11-0, Pittsburgh suffered their first loss of the season. Washington scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to rally, taking the lead with just over two minutes to go. It was the beginning of the Steelers’ slide, losing four of their last five before being bounced in the playoffs.
2020 – Week 4 Game Vs Tennessee Titans
From: Week 4, Sunday at 1 PM
To: Week 7, Sunday at 1 PM
Reason: Titans COVID outbreak
Result: 27-24 Steelers Win
Once the regular season began, one of the first challenges the NFL dealt due to COVID. Five Titans’ players and six personnel members tested positive for the virus leading up to the originally scheduled game. In response, the NFL pushed the game to Week 7, taking advantage of the team’s similar bye weeks (Titans Week 7, Steelers Week 8).
Pittsburgh got screwed out of a solid mid-season bye week, now taking Week Four off (even though the team had been practicing and preparing) but it was how the NFL handled a difficult situation. When the teams took the field, the Steelers came out on top in typical fashion, a nail biter, as Titans’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 45-yard field goal that would’ve tied the game with 18 seconds left.
2020 – Week 7 Game Vs Baltimore Ravens
From: Week 7
To: Week 8
Reason: COVID Domino Effect
Result: 28-24 Steelers Win
As far as schedule changes went, this one felt like a walk in the park. Because the Steelers-Titans game got shoehorned into Week 7, the Steelers-Ravens game originally scheduled for that week was pushed back, Baltimore’s Week 7 bye being the workaround to shuffle the schedule. Since it matched the Steelers’ bye, the game was simply flipped back a week.
Pittsburgh won this one, too, WR Chase Claypool catching the go-ahead touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter. Minkah Fitzpatrick called game, breaking up a Lamar Jackson end zone shot on the game’s final play to preserve victory.
2016-2017 – Divisional Game vs Kansas City Chiefs
From: Sunday at 1 PM
To: Sunday at 8:20 PM
Reason: Ice Storm
Result: 18-16 Steelers Win
A rescheduling that honestly, I had completely forgotten. But the Steelers-Bills postponement isn’t the first Steelers’ playoff game to be moved, though this first one stayed on the same day. An impending ice storm caused the NFL to push back to that night in order to, as the NFL would cite in a press release, give crews more time to salt and clear the roads.
After a seven hour delay, the game kicked off. Chris Boswell and his whopping six field goals gave Pittsburgh a lead throughout but the Steelers’ defense stopped a Chiefs two-point conversion with under three minutes left to maintain a two-point lead. Pittsburgh ran out the clock on their ensuing drive to advance to the AFC Title Game, losing to the New England Patriots, the last time they’ve made it that far in the playoffs.
2004 – Week 3 vs Miami Dolphins
From: Sunday at 1 PM
To: Sunday at 8:30 PM
Reason: Hurricane Jeanne
Result: 13-3 Steelers Win
The OG of Steelers’ schedule changing, Category 3 Hurricane Jeanne caused Ben Roethlisberger’s first NFL start to be delayed by 7.5 hours. Conditions were still poor but playable. The two sides traded field goals through the first three quarters before Pittsburgh broke over the end zone with six minutes left to play, Roethlisberger hitting WR Hines Ward for a 7-yard score. There were five combined turnovers and no jersey was clean after this one but Pittsburgh got to fly back with a win. Here’s a bunch of “highlights” from the game.
As it would turn out, this wasn’t even the worst weather Steelers-Dolphins’ game of Roethlisberger’s career. The 2007 “Mud Bowl” between these two teams made this 2004 game look like a perfect spring day. Pittsburgh won both games, the latter 3-0, where a stuck punt was a literal highlight of the game.
One day, Ben Roethlisberger’s jersey will be retired by the Steelers. He’ll join Hurricane Jeanne, whose name was retired by a Hurricane Committee in 2005, never to be used again.
1978 – Week 13 vs San Francisco 49ers
From: Monday Night
To: Monday Night
Reason: Political Assassination
Result: 24-7 Steelers Win
Ok, there actually wasn’t a delay here and ultimately the game’s start time didn’t move. But there was an attempt. Hours before the primetime kickoff, the city of San Francisco lobbied the NFL to delay the game. Earlier that day, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Board Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed inside City Hall (you can read more about it here).
In a message sent to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, 49ers’ owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Steelers’ owner Art Rooney, the San Francisco Park and Recreation Commission, in charge of the Candlestick park where the 49ers played, urged the league to push the game back to a different day.
“Today’s tragedy has deeply touched every San Franciscan and persons of good will everywhere,” the telegram to the league and teams read, per The New York Times. “Accordingly, the inconvenience caused by this request is fully justified.”
But the NFL said the request was received too late and the game would not be moved. Instead, a moment of silence was held for Moscone and Milk prior to kickoff.
The game was played as scheduled. Pittsburgh won with ease, building a 17-0 lead thanks to a pair of WR Lynn Swann touchdowns. John Stallworth added another in the fourth quarter. While the circumstances may not have helped the 49ers’ mindset, the Steelers also entered this game 10-2 while the 49ers were 1-11. Pittsburgh’s victory was of little surprise.
As our quirky friends over at Quirky Research noted, there were tons of rescheduled games in football’s early days. According to their exhaustive and incredible research, 17 Steelers/Pirates (their name from 1933 to 1939) were postponed or rescheduled pre-1970, which doesn’t even include one charity game cancelled in 1933 and many other relocated to different venues without the date being changed.
You can click the link above to read the blurbs on them all but here’s some highlights:
September, 1942 versus Chicago Cardinals: Postponed from September 27 to November 22 due to rain, Pittsburgh won the makeup game, 19-3. Here’s the newspaper clipping from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the following day, adding a nugget that the college game played the night before did field conditions no favors.
November, 1939 versus Brooklyn Dodgers: Moved from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn due to “lack of interest” as Quirky Research put it, explaining terrible Pittsburgh ticket sales caused the game to shift up north. A reminder that college was king in those early years and the Steelers had dark days in the first decades The Chief owned the team. The game was then delayed a day due to rain.
When things finally got underway, Brooklyn won 17-13. Per Pro Football Reference, over 8,900 showed up to Ebbets Field. Pittsburgh would play four of their final five games on the road.
October, 1938 versus Cleveland Rams: The often forgotten Cleveland Rams, the team who packed up and went West as part of the NFL’s first major expansion across the United States. They’re the origin story of today’s Los Angeles Rams.
For this game, it was was pushed from October to December because of, per Quirky Research, injury. Rosters were smaller back then, 20-something players, and Pittsburgh apparently had too many injuries to participate. The game was then relocated twice, first to Chattanooga and then to New Orleans. So a game between the Cleveland Rams and Pittsburgh Pirates was played at Tulane Stadium in December. Go figure.
Cleveland came out on top 13-7 as Pittsburgh finished out the year 2-9 under head coach Johnny “Blood” McNally, who also played for the team in addition to coaching it.
But with a little more research, the “injury” explanation for why the game was moved might not be entirely true. While the team suffered injuries, a Pittsburgh Press clipping indicates Art Rooney was frustrated by the team’s lack of success despite making them the highest-paid roster in football (led by future Supreme Court Justice Byron ‘Whizzer’ White). So he began selling off his players and depleting his roster, seemingly the catalyst for not having enough able bodies as much as the injuries.
And behold! An Edgar “Eggs” Manske reference. We’ve mentioned him before but a story worth repeating. Pittsburgh traded Chicago their 1st round pick for Manske in 1938 only for him to leave the team mid-way through the season and return to the Bears. He evidently left for his old team leading up to this originally scheduled contest.
With the Steelers’ top pick that year, Chicago took QB Sid Luckman, who would go on to become the greatest passer in franchise history, win four championships, and make the Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh received nothing.
Annoying as the schedule change is, the good news is Pittsburgh’s 5-1 in these pre-merger rescheduled games. Under Mike Tomlin, they’re built to handle these changes. It doesn’t guarantee the Steelers will win this game but if they do, it’ll be more proof they’re light on their feet and can handle an interruption to their plans.