Owners Expected To Approve Expansion Of Postseason Today

Prior to the proliferation of COVID-19, the NFL had an annual League Meeting scheduled to be taking place right now in Tampa. That proved to be the first event to be directly affected by the pandemic, with the league announcing that it would be canceled, subsequently suspending all travel, including pre-draft visits.

While the event itself may have been canceled, the conference call is still on and set to take place today. The agenda has been significantly curtailed—any discussion of and voting on potential rules changes has been postponed to a later date, whenever they may be able to gather in person again—there are still significant matters to discuss.

Chief on the docket is to formally solidify the expansion of the postseason, which is widely expected to take place in time for the 2020 season. The NFL intends to add a third wildcard team to each conference, and to eliminate the first-round bye week for second-seed teams, adding an additional wildcard game to each conference between the second and newly-created seventh seeds.

As part of that conversation, potential changes to the seeding and tiebreaking procedures will be discussed, and it will require a three-quarters vote of approval among the owners in order to establish that it will indeed come to pass.

As has been previously discussed on this site, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have benefited from this rule change more than any other team, as most of the years in which they have failed to make the postseason in recent years, they did so only by a game, slotting them in that seventh seed. This includes each of the past two seasons, during which they entered Week 17 in contention for the playoffs, though needing help to get in.

As far as the Steelers go, they are of course not looking to claim a wildcard spot, and are hoping that the return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger to complement that recent surge of the defense will be sufficient to dethrone the Baltimore Ravens, who went 14-2 last season despite losing its first postseason game.

Pittsburgh has missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and has gone winless for three, but they did reach the AFC Championship game in 2016. They reached the playoffs in four straight years between 2014 and 2017 following a similar two-season slide in 2012 and 2013, after which they also, under the new rules, would have qualified as the seventh seed.

Other matters up for consideration are further discussion of the logistics of the 2020 NFL Draft, potential further response by the league to the pandemic, broadcasting rights, and matters concerning health and safety pertaining to data tracking via sensor information.

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