The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The NFL will play two preseason games in 2020.
Explanation: It has been reported that the NFL intends to reduce the preseason to two games this offseason, though it has not yet been announced. The NFLPA has formally recommended that no preseason games be played, and it certainly appears the league is taking this into consideration without stronghanding the decision.
The preseason is actually more important this year than in other years precisely because of the novelty of the situation—but more for the organizations themselves, rather than the rosters. With two preseason games, every team will have the opportunity to host a game and to travel to a game, in so doing being given the opportunity to try to work out any kinks in the process that Covid-19 throws at them before the games actually matter.
Even if it means delaying the season, the league seems resolute about the importance of having this dress rehearsal period for the real games—plus, it’s revenue, let’s not forget. While fans may not be in attendance, they will be watching.
The NFL doesn’t need the NFLPA’s approval to play two preseason games, so they can ultimately force the issue, though the latter can file a grievance related to workplace safety concerns. Overall, as pretty much always, the owners have the upper hand.
While the owners have the upper hand in negotiations, they don’t have the upper hand on the state of the coronavirus around the country, and as new cases daily remain north of 60,000, including hotspots near where a number of teams play, it’s becoming more and more likely that they decide the preseason is a reasonable sacrifice to make.
Failure to do so will only increase the likelihood that the regular season will have to be pushed back, and that is something they are hoping to avoid doing at all costs. While they can have contingency plans, involving rearranging the schedule, it could cost them.
And of course there is the reality that the NFLPA has a point about unnecessary exposure to the virus in meaningless games, which the NFL has clearly been at least listening to. While the NFL has suggested putting 35% of player wages into an escrow account, they are not getting paid much for preseason games. Meanwhile, players are likely thinking they should get hazard pay, so there is a clear disconnect that likely results in their replacing the preseason with an extended practice ramp-up period.