Thoughts on Thursday Night: Week Ten

We couldn’t catch a break with prime time games over the past week amiright? First Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers disappointed us, the Titans-Cowboys matchup on Monday had boredom baked right in and now this 52-21 Thursday night shellacking of the Panthers by the Steelers which was supposed to be a tight matchup between contenders. Here are three thoughts I had after watching the Steelers’ blowout win…

1 – While we didn’t see a great football game on Thursday night, we did get bombarded with US Army ads, which, I’m not going to lie, chapped my ass a little bit. I think the NFL needs to pump the brakes on their relationship with the US Army and the DOD. We already have this entire month, “Salute to Service”, honouring veterans and active service members serving in the military, and on top of all the pro-military propaganda that goes with that pointless month (aren’t we honouring them before every game during the national anthem? Isn’t that what the anthem is supposedly all about according to traditionalists and conservatives?) we still have to see countless military ads during commercials. Did I mention the postgame show was titled the “US Army Postgame Show”. I mean come on. (Side note: Above is a link to a very important piece about ex-veteran and ex-NFLer Pat Tillman, who’s story has been mis-used and mis-represented by the NFL and the US Army in very alarming and disappointing fashion.)

Now onto the topic of Eric Reid, a recent Panthers signing at safety and one of the originators of the kneeling protest along with former teammate Colin Kaepernick. After hitting a sliding Ben Roethlisberger late and in the head, Reid was surprisingly ejected, even though the hit was clearly not flagrant. It was a foul no doubt, but far from an ejection-able offence. Reid and Big Ben were even seen exchanging pats on the back after the play. I’m not saying it’s related, but the only guy still protesting by kneeling during the national anthem getting ejected right in the middle of this NFL/US Army primetime circle jerk is kind of an interesting coincidence no? This all before Reid revealed in the locker room that he has been drug tested five times during the six weeks he’s been with the team, which definitely seems excessive. How many times you think Big Ben’s been tested in that time? Not to mention the Panthers brought in Tayler Heineke to close out the game, a four-year pro who had thrown ONE pass in the NFL before last night. There’s no way they can use the “he was the best guy out there” argument when they have that guy playing can they? Guys like Heineke continue to get deals, while Kaepernick remains and will likely remain unsigned indefinitely. All these pieces came together on Thursday night to make me feel pretty apprehensive about the game I’d just watched and the league I follow so closely.

2 – Now to the topic of actual football. The Steelers started out with an alarming 1-2-1 record this year but have since won five straight games, including wins over quality teams such as the Falcons, Bengals and now this complete dismantling of the Panthers on TNF. The Panthers are a 6-win team themselves, so they are definitely no push-over. I think this 52-21 win proves the Steelers are for real, but not that for real. What I mean by that is, with such a convincing win over such a solid team, the Steelers have forced their way into the ‘Best in the AFC’ conversation along with the Pats and Chiefs. (The Texans have won six straight but none of those wins have come against a quality team, the squad with the best record of the bunch being the Dolphins.)

While the Steelers should be in the conversation, it won’t matter how many wins they string together now if they can’t beat their boogey-man in January: Tom Brady. The GOAT has owned the Steelers like no other, posting his second best passer rating against any single team against them (111.8) over his ten-game series with the Steelers. Brady has gone 8-2 in those games while throwing 25 touchdowns against just four picks. During both of the Steelers Super Bowl runs since Brady has entered the league, the Pats were bounced by teams other than Pittsburgh. The Steelers have a chance to exorcise some demons when Tommy Gun comes to town in Week 15 but unless the Mahomian Chiefs can take down the Patriots in January before they get to the Steelers, Pittsburgh will have yet another great regular season followed by a disappointing exit at the hands of the Pats, which is exactly what happened last year. Here’s to hoping they can get that TB12 monkey of their back by playoff time.

You could pretty much use this meme for every TNF game.

3 – Of course, that Week 15 matchup between the Steelers and Pats won’t take place on TNF because they only show us the worst of the worst. Prime-time in general has really been brutal for the past five straight games. Other than a heart-pumping 38-31 win for the Rams over the Vikings in Week Three, TNF has had the ugliest matchups imaginable. I think we really need to eliminate this TNF fad. Those ugly matchups have engendered actual games that are somehow even worse. The last five TNF matchups have been decided by three scores or more, four of which were decided by 30 points or more. It’s clear some teams just can’t get out of bed for a game on such a short week. Granted, this past week’s 52-21 game was a surprise and the game between the Panthers and Steelers really should’ve been closer, but the trend is clear. The NFL just can’t be bothered to schedule quality games in primetime on Thursday, so why schedule any at all? Just to plug the US Army?