Sleeping, eating, film work and a little ‘panic.’ How the Steelers dealt with emergency landing

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett was trying to get some sleep as the team was flying back from a win in Las Vegas early Monday morning when a flight attendant nudged him awake with some unwelcome news.

“(She) was like ‘We have a Code Yellow alert’ and I was just kind of out of it,” Pickett said. “I was like, ’What does that mean? We’re one step away from Code Red.’”

Things didn’t quite get that far, though an oil pressure issue forced Pittsburgh’s charter plane to make an emergency landing in Kansas City. The plane landed safely, though not everyone on the flight took the unexpected detour in stride.

“Some guys were panicking,” Pickett said. “It was a crazy situation. I’m happy we landed.”

Once safely on the ground, the Steelers spent five-plus hours on the tarmac while waiting for another plane to fly in from Atlanta that could carry the team the rest of the way home, making an already long night even longer.

The Steelers were initially supposed to land at Pittsburgh International Airport around 5:30 a.m. on Monday morning.


Instead, they didn’t get in until much closer to noon, disrupting what is usually a carefully calibrated schedule, particularly after a night game.

While coach Mike Tomlin made it a point to call the team’s unexpected detour a “non-issue” as the Steelers (2-1) prepare for a visit to Houston (1-2) on Sunday, it did make for a heck of a story.

Tight end Pat Freiermuth, all 6-foot-5 of him, grabbed a pair of small pillows and a blanket and attempted to fall asleep on the floor. Asked how much he could possibly have gotten given the circumstances, Freiermuth just smiled.

“Not much,” he said with a laugh.

The Steelers will be on a different plane when they head to Houston on Saturday, likely with a smaller entourage than the one that joined them in Las Vegas.

By then, Tomlin expects his team’s attention to be on the Texans, not on their unexpected layover in Kansas City.

“My desire is that as we move away from it, we talk less about it, because I don’t want it to be an excuse in any way, or some galvanizing thing in any way,” Tomlin said. “No, there’s nothing mystical about performance. We work. We prepare. We step into stadiums, and we play.”

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