Historically, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II has not been a supporter of a potential 18-game schedule, even while many, or even most, of his peers in the ownership ranks around the league have continually been moving increasingly in that direction.
Back in 2012, for example, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “it’s a dead issue for now”. He added, “I don’t know if it will come up in the future, but it’s certainly not on the agenda” for the annual league meeting set to take place at that time. Given that he plays a large role in setting that agenda, I think you can read between the lines. His father, Dan Rooney, had previously gone so far as to simply say of the proposal, “I would rather not have the money”.
In a separate interview with Sports Business Daily in 2014, Art Rooney II said that he did not see an 18-game season “in the near future”, and in fact that it hadn’t really been talked about all that much. Five years later, however, his position, and his feelings about its future employment, have softened.
When asked about how he feels about an 18-game season, he told WTAE, “I think it depends. And it depends a little bit for me on when the games get scheduled”. He added, “I would not be excited about just adding two more games at the end of the season. I just think that’s kind of playoff time. Like I say, it kind of depends on the way it gets structured, so there’s some work to be done, and obviously a lot of work in terms of network, media schedules, how that all plays out. We’ve got a little way to go yet”.
As you are likely aware, the possibility of an 18-game schedule has gained steam once again, for the first time since 2011, and it’s no coincidence, because it coincides with the first labor negotiations toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA since 2011, when the current deal was struck.
At that time, it became clear that the 18-game schedule was shot down early and hard, virtually dead upon arrival, but it perhaps served as a bargaining chip to allow the owners to receive key concessions in many other areas. Many skeptics continue to believe that it is once again being used as a bargaining chip to fleece the NFLPA, and I can’t say that I blame their skepticism.
The Steelers’ player representative, Ramon Foster, already came down hard on the idea of an 18-game season. Back in June, he identified it as a “negotiation tactic”. A month later, as talk picked up, he said it would result in “trashy” football.
Pittsburgh’s players were the only one of the 32 teams that did not ratify the last CBA. I think Rooney understands the strong-willed nature of his locker room, and he knows that makes it all the more difficult to support an 18-game schedule.