The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How will the lack of a first-round bye affect number two seeds in the playoffs going forward?
Earlier in the week, the NFL officially voted to change the format of the playoffs for the first time in many years. adding a seventh seed and third wildcard to each conference, they also eliminated the first-round bye week previously given to second seeds, opening up a second-vs-seventh third wildcard game in the first round of the playoffs in each conference.
Between 1990 and 2019, over a quarter of all Super Bowl winners came from the second seed, including the two most recent winners. The last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl back in 2008, they also did so from the number two seed.
If they are the number two seed going forward, however, they would have to play three games before getting to the Super Bowl, even if that third game is against a team who ordinarily would not even qualify for the postseason, and of course would take place at home.
How much of a negative impact will the lack of a first-round bye and the requirement of playing four games have on the second seed’s ability to advance to and win the Super Bowl as a result of these changes? It’s inconceivable that it won’t have any negative effect at all, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the difference will be significant, either. Plenty of teams with first-round byes stall out early, like the Baltimore Ravens last year.