When the talk turns to a 14-team playoff field, the inclination may be to focus upon how the addition of two more wild-card games will change the NFL’s postseason schedule.
However, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wonders how a postseason format change will affect divisional play in the regular season.
Speaking to reporters at the NFL meetings in Orlando on Tuesday, Tomlin said he would prefer playoff expansion only if it did not devalue the importance of the Steelers’ two regular season games against Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore.
“I would favor it as long as it doesn’t lessen the significance of division play, and I mean that,” Tomlin said, according to a transcript of his remarks from the Pro Football Writers of America. “I love the structure of division play and what it means from a playoff-seeding standpoint. If it doesn’t lessen that in any way, then obviously I’m all ears.”
Tomlin made it clear he hoped division winners would continue to host wild card games.
“I don’t want to lessen that in any way,” Tomlin said. “I don’t.”
As long as the NFL continues to give division winners at least one home game, playoff expansion wouldn’t seem likely to materially affect divisional play. In fact, including seven teams per conference would open the door for all four teams in a division to make the postseason, which could make the final week of the regular season all the more compelling.