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 eventually have to bite the bullet at some point this year and concede to an 18th week of the regular season.
Explanation: The NFL still has six more weeks of games left to be played. It’s not even clear as of the time of this writing that it will successfully get every game in week 12 played actually in week 12, and if they don’t, that means they have to be moved to an 18th week—to be played only if they involve playoff implications.
Six weeks left to go through, and a high chance that each week will continue to pose major obstacles in getting every game played. The league has already had at least three significant outbreaks of Covid-19 infection, perhaps even more. I believe the San Francisco 49ers at one point had 10 or more players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List.
All you need is unpredictability in one instance to create the conditions that make it too risky for a game to be played, as was the case when the Steelers’ game against the Tennessee Titans was postponed. At that time, both teams still had a bye week, but at this point, that’s no longer an option to fall back on.
The NFL has admitted that it expects cases to increase because cases are increasing around the country in communities, and players and coaches and staff are a part of those communities. More cases means a greater likelihood of an 18th week.
If the Titans situation happened now, the NFL would have found a way to make the game work, even playing it on a Wednesday and then giving teams Monday night games. Some people talk as though they think the NFL actually wants an 18th week, but the reality is that if they really wanted to do that, they could have already justified doing it, and thus would already have done so.
They’re instead trying to avoid it at all costs, keeping everything on schedule for a set Super Bowl date. It’s a point of pride for them to be able to say at the end of the season that they were the only major sports league in the country to start and finish a season as planned.