The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy changed the Steelers travel plans for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. NFL teams normally leave for away games no later than Saturday afternoon, but the Steelers instead will leave Pittsburgh on Sunday morning and return immediately after the game.
The Jersey City hotel where the team had planned to stay is still without electricity, and the state of New Jersey was heavily impacted by the storm. Instead of changing hotels, and in doing so taking up rooms that displaced residents could use, the Steelers got approval from Commissioner Roger Goodell to make it a one-day trip so as not to add any unnecessary strain to the area’s resources.
“When you look at it, it’s a minor inconvenience considering what those people in New York and New Jersey went through with such a devastating ‘tropical storm’ as they changed it to, but it was still a hurricane and affected millions of people,” said Max Starks. “You have seven million people without electricity, and a football game pales in comparison to that. You just hope you can do your best to take their minds off such a travesty for a couple of hours by playing some football.”
The decision to change the travel plans was made after practice on Thursday, and the players didn’t blink when they heard about it, especially after seeing the images from the devastated areas the last few days.
“So many people are affected in the area,” said Jerricho Cotchery. “You have staff at the hotel that might be affected and things of that nature. They might not have enough staff. They have no power and you have towns that have been wiped out. I am sure for the hotel it might be a relief. For the people who live there your hearts go out to them. There is a lot of damage.”
This isn’t the first time that a hurricane has had an impact on the Steelers travel plans. They had to deal with Hurricane Jeanne in South Florida in September 2004. The team left for Miami on a Friday and then waited out the hurricane before playing the game on Sunday night instead of Sunday afternoon.
“It’s just one of those things,” said Starks. “It’s an adjustment. I look back to my rookie year and we had the hurricane in Miami and we went down extra early to beat it. When you look at that, it’s one of those things you can’t help it when natural disasters happen. You have to be able to perform under any kind of circumstances. You just have to roll with the punches.”
The Steelers were helped in this regard by it being such a short flight, and with kickoff at 4:25 p.m. it should allow for a reasonable departure time on Sunday morning.
“You just have to deal with it and lock in the best that you can,” said Cotchery. “It won’t be a problem if you are locked in on the game. We know we have a job to do and we have to get the job done.”
Hydrating and stretching before and after the plane trip are keys for the players, but other than that they plan on approaching Sunday with a business-as-usual approach.
“You have to be a professional about it,” said Maurkice Pouncey. “We just have to get on that flight ready to play on Sunday. That is fine with everybody here.”
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The NFL and the NFLPA combined to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross to help in the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
The NFL will run TV pregame and in-game messages to promote donations during this weekend’s games