The Steelers picked up an unexpected bye week via the postponement of their Week Four game against the Titans. If the Steelers-Titans game moves to Week Seven (with Steelers-Ravens moving to Week Eight, when Pittsburgh would have had a bye), Pittsburgh will end up playing games in 13 straight weekends, without a bye.
Asked about that prospect by reporters on Thursday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was blunt: “We do not care.”
Nothing would change if they did care, so that’s clearly the right attitude. And in this crazy, upside-down world of pro football in a pandemic, playing games in 13 straight weeks is a minor inconvenience, given other things that can and will happen.
It’s not the first time teams have played that many weeks without a break. Before the bye week arrived in 1990 (a device for expanding the number of NFL weekends — and prime-time TV windows — to 17), all teams played 16 games in 16 weeks.
From 1999 through 2001, the NFL had 31 teams. Each year, someone had a Week One bye (which meant 16 straight games after that), someone had a Week Seventeen bye (which meant 16 straight games before that), etc.
In 2017, a hurricane wiped out the Week One game between Tampa Bay and Miami, they made it up during their bye week, and they both played games in 16 straight weeks.
So the prospect of the Steelers (and Titans) playing 13 straight weeks shouldn’t be regarded as a big deal. Again, this season could entail hardships and perceived inequities far worse than that.