After a long wait and plenty of questions about whether they’d be able to actually play, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally got in their Week 12 game against the Ravens on Wednesday afternoon. Five days later, they’re set to play again, at home against the Washington Football Team.
Both teams were initially scheduled to play on Thanksgiving Day, but Pittsburgh’s game was delayed because of a COVID-19 outbreak that left the Ravens without their starting quarterback, tight end, and two top running backs, among the more than 20 players who landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Washington, meanwhile easily disposed of the Cowboys, who were missing plenty of key players — just due to injuries.
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And this game was moved from Sunday to Monday because of the Week 12 schedule shuffling. Regardless of when it’s played, the Steelers will have to put their undefeated record to the test once again. Washington will be the fourth losing team in five weeks Pittsburgh gets to play, but the team is in prime playoff position thanks to the quirk of playing in the NFC East. As far as their playoff odds go, the fact that they’re tied with the Giants matters far more than their 4-7 record.
Can the Steelers move to 12-0, with just the Bills, Bengals, Colts, and Browns left on their schedule? Or will Washington build on its first winning streak of the season in a shocking road upset?
Washington at Pittsburgh
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. ET
Spread: Steelers -7
Three Things to Watch
1. How will the rest differential affect the teams?
The biggest thing that sticks out about this matchup is how drastically different the amount of time each team has had to prepare. Since 2018, the NFL has made a point to even out rest differential for teams’ schedules, and Pittsburgh and Washington were both supposed to have 10 days of rest. But with the Steelers’ game pushed back to Wednesday, there was no avoiding this scenario. It was just a matter of whether the rest differential would be 4-10 or 5-11 in terms of days.
There’s been plenty of research showing how rest makes an impact. A 2018 Yale study showed that from 2011-15, home teams had a .568 winning percentage overall. However, when the home team was less rested, that winning percentage fell to .536. That was even more drastic in scenarios where the home team had less than a week’s worth of rest (.481 winning percentage with six days rest compared to seven for the road team).
With Pittsburgh on short rest and Washington on extra rest, the advantage should swing to the road team later in the game as players tire. Plus, Washington has more than double the time to game plan and scheme against a tough Steelers defense.
2. Can the Steelers slow down Antonio Gibson?
Washington is 29th in passing offense (218.6 ypg) and 27th in net yards per pass attempt (5.6). As exciting as second-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin is, this passing offense is nothing to brag about. The only thing keeping it going lately has been rookie running back Antonio Gibson.
Gibson is the league’s 13th-leading rusher (645 yards) but is third with 11 rushing touchdowns. And he’s been on absolute fire lately. In his last five games, Gibson has 402 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while adding 86 receiving yards on 13 receptions.