Though it hasn’t officially been adopted by the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Team President Art Rooney II essentially confirmed the league will move to a 17-game season in 2021. That’s what he said in a fan question and answer session over on Steelers’ Nation Unite.
Here’s Rooney’s full comments.
“The 17 game schedule I think will work out well. Obviously, this year will be the first year for it. So we’ll get a chance to see how it goes. I think we’ll reduce the preseason by one game,. So it will be a similar kind of schedule just in terms of the calendar. But we’ll just turn one of the preseason games into a regular season game, which I think all of us would appreciate that. So I feel good about it. I hope it works and look forward to seeing how it does in 2021.”
The NFL is fully expected to pass the resolution during league meetings in the coming weeks. It will be the first expansion of the regular season schedule since the league moved from 14 to 16 games for the start of the 1978 season.
For Pittsburgh, their 17th game will be a contest against the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers last played them in 2019, losing not only the game but Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury.
The new CBA allowed flexibility for when football would add a 17th game. But owners are obviously jumping on the chance now, especially coming off a year where revenues tanked due to the COVID pandemic.
To compensate, as expected, the league will reduce the number of preseason games from four to three. This will hurt undrafted and young players’ chances of making the roster but it’s something veterans and established players overwhelmingly advocate for. One fewer preseason game is one less chance to get hurt and one game they don’t have to put their bodies through.