Will the Playoff Expansion Help the Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL?


Mar 24, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference during the NFL Annual Meetings. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Goodell is continuing his crusade to expand the playoffs to seven teams from each conference.  I am not a Goodell fan, I doubt I ever will be.  When I originally heard about the plan to expand the playoffs I wasn’t in favor of it.  I felt like it was another hypocritical move by Goodell to get more games played, since it seems unlikely the 18 game regular season will ever happen.  I just wasn’t a big fan of the idea of only giving one team a first round bye and including a mediocre third wild card team.  But the more I thought about it and looked at the teams that would be included I’m starting to be in favor it.

Now obviously the Steelers would have benefitted from this expansion the past two seasons, finishing 8-8 both years ending out seventh in the AFC.  You can make the argument that an 8-8 probably doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, which is very true.  However last year after finishing the second half of the season 6-2, it would have been interesting to see them in the playoffs against the number two seed, New England Patriots (actually maybe it’s better this expansion didn’t happen in 2013 since the Pats beat the Steelers 55-31 in week 9).

Last season the seventh placed team in the NFC was the 10-6 Arizona Cardinals.  They finished their final nine games with a 7-2 record.  They missed the playoffs, while the 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers won the NFC North.  Would the Cardinals have beaten the number two seeded Carolina Panthers, who knows? But it would have been exciting to see these two somewhat surprise teams playing each other in the first round of the playoffs.

The 2013 seventh placed teams make a good argument for the expansion, but if you look at the past six seasons no seventh team has been worse than 8-8. The Chicago Bears went 10-6 in 2012 and the New York Giants also went 10-6 in 2010 but missed the playoffs. In 2008 the Patriots missed the playoffs even though they finished 11-5.  So at times the seventh placed team is deserving to be in the playoffs.  Even if an 8-8 is the last team in, it’s not unprecedented to have a .500 team or worse in the playoffs.  We all remember in 2010, when the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West and then defeated the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round to advance.

The other issue with the playoff expansion would be taking away a bye week from the second placed team.  It would be pretty tough to not give a 13-3 team a bye week, which is what would have happened in 2011 with the San Francisco 49ers.  The Packers were the one seed at 15-1 and the 13-3 Niners would have been forced to play the 8-8 Bears in the Wild Card Round.  Although that Niners team was the only 13-3 that ended out being a number two seed in the past four years.  Last season both the Patriots and Panthers finished 12-4 earning a bye.  The argument for the expansion would be, if you are the second placed team with a record of 12-4 you should be able to beat the final wild card team.  It sounds harsh but it’s a fair point.  Also the prize of getting home field advantage as the number one seed and receiving the only bye week becomes so much more valuable.

The way things are sounding it seems like playoff expansion will become a reality sooner rather than later so maybe I’m just accepting it and trying to be alright with the change but I think this could be a good thing for the NFL.  I think we can all agree that playoff football is pretty great so this change will give us two more games.  And hey, if the Steelers finish seventh for the third straight season at least this year it will result in a playoff game.

Let me know what you think Steelers Nation. Yay or Nay to the expansion?