Tensions for the game are further increased by the Steelers-Titans rivalry that dates back to the 1970s when the Steelers and then-Houston Oilers played in the AFC Central.
The Seattle Seahawks came out in force to condemn Thursday night games after Richard Sherman was lost for the season in Week 10. Following that game, Incognito said that Thursday games "suck" and it's "ridiculous" that the National Football League puts them on the schedule.
"Yeah, it's miserable. It's bad".
As a fan of the game, Mariota said he's been impressed with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger over the years.
Mike Tomlin alluded to this reality after Pittsburgh beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, 20-17, saying players who limped out of that arena likely wouldn't be able to suit up against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday at Heinz Field. "It's so tough on guys", said Roethlisberger.
"This isn't just a defense, this is a Dick LeBeau defense", said Ben Roethlisberger. "He's played banged up, he's found ways to win, he's made big throws in every game and always seems to find a way to win". I'd say take Pittsburgh to cover if Mariota doesn't play. You've got to let your body recover a little bit. "Even a week, you're still not fully recovered by Sunday to Sunday, you're still dealing with bumps and bruises and things just continue to build up throughout the season". I don't know many players that like it. When you go on such a short week, man, it's just not good. It's a tough thing to do. As bad of an idea as it is to make teams play two games in a five-day span, Roethlisberger's diatribe isn't suddenly going to excuse him from taking the field on Thursday. "I'm sure the Titans would say the same thing and everyone who's played on Thursday night would say the same thing". Their O/U trends are 5-1 in their last 6 games following a win, 6-2 in their last 8 games overall, 13-5-1 in their last 19 games following an ATS loss, 5-2 in their last 7 games on the grass and vs. AFC, and 4-1 in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
It's a rising chorus of voices from players feeling empowered to speak freely about their workplace, at a time the league is fighting battles both internal and external.
"It's easier because that is something you have, it's been in since day one", said Roethlisberger.