(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
As expected, the NFL owners formally approved the 17-game regular-season schedule at the virtual owners meetings yesterday. The 17-game schedule will begin this year, ending the 16-game schedule platform that began in 1978.
With the expanding 17-game schedule, each team would play an extra interconference matchup -- AFC vs. NFC -- based on divisional standings from the preceding season and on a rotating divisional basis. All the AFC teams will be home in 2021 for the extra interconference game and then the NFC teams will be home in 2022.
The Steelers will play the Seahawks at Heinz Field in 2021. The Steelers finished the regular season 12-4 last year, likewise did Seattle, and they both won their respective divisions. The rest of the AFC North teams will face the NFC West as well.
With the league adding an extra regular-season game, teams will now have just three preseason games, although the Steelers will have four in 2021 due to playing the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game.
Along with the 17-game schedule, the league announced every team will be required to play an international game once every eight years.
Bob Labriola of Steelers.com talked with Steelers president Art Rooney II today at the conclusion of the two-day virtual owners meeting and asked him about the change to a 17-game schedule.
"On the football side of things, we have learned we can live without four preseason games," Rooney told Labriola. "As you know there was a time when we had six preseason games, and then we went to four. It's still a 20-game season basically, but we're converting one of the preseason games into a regular season game. For fans, they would rather see a regular season game than a preseason game, so that makes sense. And from a football standpoint we can learn to live with three preseason games rather than four."
The league added an extra game to the regular season, but also deducted a preseason game, so they met in the middle with the Plyers Association who were strongly against the original proposal of an 18-game schedule.
"At one point there was discussion about 18 games, and there was resistance to that on the ownership level," said Rooney. "We didn't have a consensus on that front, and we didn't have a consensus from the Players Association on that either. So, 17 games is a good step, and I think it can work and there are a lot of pieces to it that will work better. It's good to evolve from 16-and-4. It's time to create another regular season game, and this is a good way to do it."
A 17-game schedule was pretty much certain to happen as the NFL Players Association agreed to it last year and the NFL announced a new mega-deal on March 18 with media partners Amazon, CBS, ESPN/ABC, FOX and NBC for the distribution of NFL games, as well as additional media rights.
The new agreements will begin with the 2023 season and run through the 2033 season. The NFL will nearly double its media revenue to more than $10 billion a season under the new rights agreements, according to Joe Reedy of the Associated Press.
The players will receive at least 48.8 percent of the league revenue as well with a 17-game schedule and there's one less preseason game, so it's a win-win for both sides. NFL commissioner was thrilled yesterday when the owners passed the 17-game schedule proposal.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”