It was just 17 degrees Fahrenheit in Pittsburgh on Sunday. And as the Steelers pounded the Dolphins into oblivion and out of the playoffs, 30–12, the announcers repeatedly informed us that it felt, due to the wind chill, just 2 degrees. They called linebacker Ryan Shazier “courageous” for warming up without his shirt on. In fact, it was so damn cold that ref’s whistle froze:
We like to hype up the impact of the cold on these postseason games. Football is the only big-four sport we play outdoors once it gets chilly, and both players and fans equate the ability to play through the cold with physical toughness. Players eschew clothing that could keep their bodies warm, choosing to wear their pride in their pain resistance instead. After Shazier went shirtless, the Giants wide receiving corps followed suit before their game at Green Bay.
It’s a great narrative, especially for fans of Northern teams. Those of us who live in places where it snows often believe we possess some sort of superior inner grit for surviving the winter, and so why wouldn’t some football teams possess the same qualities?
Well, because these are professional sports teams.
Backup QB Matt Moore, who came on after Ryan Tannehill was injured in Week 14, couldn’t guide Miami to a victory. He didn’t scream, “Jesus, it’s nippy out!”; he screamed after getting briefly knocked out of the game by a hit by Steelers LB Bud Dupree. He was cleared by concussion protocol, but then turned the ball over on the next three possessions.
When the two teams played in Miami in October, Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards, averaging 8 yards per carry. But with Jack Frost nipping at his nose Sunday, he didn’t have a single carry of more than 8 yards. Ajayi lives in Miami now, but he played college football in Boise, Idaho.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown demolished the Dolphins secondary, going for two 50-plus-yard touchdown catches in the first half — both against second-string Miami cornerback Tony Lippett. Lippett grew up in sun-baked Detroit, while Brown spent his youth facing frostbite in frigid Miami.
We’re told that the cold favors teams that like to run the ball, and Le’Veon Bell set a franchise record for rushing yards in a postseason game on Sunday. But you know what also favors rushing teams? Playing against a league-worst run defense like Miami’s.
The Steelers beat the Dolphins because they were way, way better. On offense, on defense, at quarterback, in the trenches, in the secondary, at linebacker. It just happened to also be cold.