Since 2007, London has hosted the NFL International Series, and this year’s game will be between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium. The citizens of merry old England will be witnessing the clash of two teams that are desperately seeking their first win of the season.
Normally, only one of two teams travels for an NFL matchup. However, in this instance, both the Steelers (0-3) and the Vikings (0-3) had to pack their bags for a journey across the Atlantic.
These two teams went about preparing for this Week 4 battle in different ways. Minnesota chose to leave for London early in the week, while Pittsburgh decided to practice at their home facilities and make their departure for England on Thursday evening. To some, this may seem irrelevant, but the Steelers’ choice to leave the States much later than the Vikes could haunt them in the end.
The time difference between Pittsburgh and London is five hours. On top of dealing with injuries and inconsistent play, the team could also find themselves battling jetlag in addition. Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin mentioned earlier this week that he felt that it was in the team’s best interest to stick with their practice routine and familiar surroundings, and said that they see this as just another road game.
Since he became head coach in Pittsburgh, I have found myself supporting just about everything that Tomlin has done when getting his team ready. I believe that Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the league, and I clearly see where he’s coming from when he says that he doesn’t want to break his team’s practice pattern. However, I have to disagree with the stance he made this week.
Unfortunately, whatever Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers coaching staff has done to prepare their team for Sundays this year hasn’t worked. Maybe leaving for London and giving the team a change of scenery at a much earlier time could have helped get some of the bad, winless taste out of their mouths. It would have definitely prepared them mentally for the five-hour time difference. Furthermore, such long travel does take its toll on people physically, and the extra given time to adjust to that would have helped as well.
As mentioned before, the Vikings traveled to London earlier this week, and should be well adjusted to the time difference once Sunday rolls around. On the other hand, the Steelers could still be trying to get acclimated while on the field. For the sake of the Steelers, and the rest of Steeler Nation, I hope that Tomlin is preaching a “mind over matter” theme to his team this week, because with this dramatic change in time in such a short time span, they’ll need it.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+