The Steelers lost out on the lone bye in the AFC and will be the third seed once the Wild Card portion of the postseason kicks off this weekend.
That’s unfortunate for two reasons. One, the Steelers will now have to win three games instead of two to make it to the Super Bowl. Two, I can’t just sit around on Saturday and Sunday and consume all 360 minutes (or more) of Wild Card Weekend football totally unencumbered by the stress of worrying about whether or not Pittsburgh will make it to the divisional round.
Did you notice the math in the previous paragraph? And before you try to split hairs with commercials and things of that nature, 360 minutes is the amount of in-game time it takes to play six professional football contests; that is what we are now guaranteed this weekend, thanks to the NFL’s decision to expand its playoff field and add a seventh seed to each conference.
For my money, there’s nothing like playoff football. I love all the rounds, and I could never figure out why so many people, including legendary ESPN personality, Chris Berman, have often referred to the divisional playoffs as the greatest weekend in football. Why do those people say that? Because you have eight teams vying for the four spots that make up Conference Championship Sunday (or whatever it’s officially called) the following week.
The playoffs are the playoffs, and the four games that used to comprise Wild Card Weekend were equally compelling, in my not so humble opinion. The beauty of the NFL’s postseason has always been its win or go home nature. When those are the stakes, surviving and advancing in any round is something to be celebrated and cherished.
My favorite kind of playoff round—believe it or not—is one not involving the Steelers. There’s just so much intense pressure during a Steelers playoff game that it’s kind of hard to enjoy it. “I can’t believe I have to sit here and endure this for the next few hours,” I have actually said to myself before such contests. Therefore, I savor those rare times when I can sit down and watch an entire weekend of NFL postseason football knowing Pittsburgh has already punched its ticket to the divisional round thanks to earning a bye.
I won’t be able to do that this weekend, at least not fully. The Steelers/Browns game is slated for 8:15 on Sunday night, so at least it’s the last one on the docket. Still, I won’t be able to truly enjoy the five wildcard games that lead up to the main event.
But, fear not, because there will be a time when the Steelers do earn a bye into the divisional round, and when that happens, this expanded Wild Card Weekend will be glorious to sit through. The first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament? Not bad, by comparison. The College Football Playoff? It’s nice and all, but the first round only involves four teams and two of them are almost always Alabama and Clemson.
As for those “best of” postseason tournaments, don’t even try to bring that weak “win and you have to win a few more times” stuff in here!
Do you know why sports radio hosts always devote segments to the greatest Game 7’s in sports history whenever there is a new Game 7 on the horizon? Because that’s when “best of” gets to morph into what NFL players and coaches experience each time they prepare for the postseason.
Some folks weren’t initially on board with an expanded NFL postseason, but now that it’s here, it’s a beautiful thing, is it not?
Enjoy those 360 minutes of Wild Card Weekend action...even if the final 60 minutes could be too much for the faint of heart.