The Steelers got a second win when the Ravens went for two and failed to make it. Pittsburgh avoided playing overtime football only four days before a Thursday night game against the Vikings.
Already a hard-fought rivalry even when the game is confined to 60 minutes, the Steelers could have played up to 10 more minutes in a game that started in the late-afternoon window on Sunday. Which would have left them with little more than 96 hours to regroup and regather and regenerate for Thursday night.
The preservation and promotion of short-week football, frankly, fueled the reduction in regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10. In Week Eight of the 2016 season, the Raiders and the Buccaneers went 13 minutes and 15 seconds into overtime on an 86-degree day in Tampa, with the Bucs turning around and playing on Thursday night against the Falcons. The Bucs lost, 43-28. The following March, overtime shrunk by 33 percent, ostensibly in the name of player safety but more pragmatically in the name of eliminating another basis for criticizing playing on Thursday after playing on Sunday.
It also would make sense to consider putting the teams that play on Thursday night in the early Sunday window, whenever possible. Obviously, Ravens-Steelers became a marquee matchup for CBS. It made sense for it to start at 4:25 p.m. ET. Perhaps a team like Pittsburgh should be playing a less compelling foe the Sunday before a Thursday night game.
At a minimum, both teams playing on Thursday night should play at the same time the preceding Sunday, in order to ensure that they have the same amount of time from the end of one game to the start of the other, barring an overtime period.
And that’s another intriguing twist. Should the team that faces a division rival that plays next on Thursday night consider that factor when making the decision to play for overtime or play for the win? Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he went for two because he was out of cornerbacks. Was the possibility of making it harder for the Steelers to win on Thursday night part of the analysis?
We’re told it wasn’t. Maybe it should be. While the primary goal for the Ravens was to win, helping grease the skids toward another loss for Pittsburgh would have been an added benefit to taking the game beyond sixty minutes. Fortunately for the Steelers, they got the win over Baltimore, and they didn’t have to take extra reps to get there.