Foster, Steelers Players React to Potential 18-Game Season

Shortening preseason, extending playoff format all being rumored

Josh Rowntree
June 04, 2019 - 1:51 pm
Steelers guard Ramon Foster at OTAs in 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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The NFL wants to make more of its games matter. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the League is interested in shortening the preseason and, potentially extend the regular season to 18 games. 

The issue is that players, generally, have been opposed to extending the regular season, with safety and health concerns being the primary point of opposition.

“To be honest, I have’t heard anything more about an 18-game season,” said Steelers NFLPA representative Ramon Foster Tuesday. “I’m sure that’s something that’s going to be brought up. Just health and safety-wise, keeping guys on the field longer, and adding two more games, I just don’t know how it’s going to work. That’s probably just a negotiation tactic more than anything.”

Foster, however, is content with the current structure of the preseason.

“I’m not opposed to four games at all, because I’m a guy that benefitted from it,” said Foster, an undrafted free agent entering his eleventh season with Pittsburgh. “I think when you have two games it puts the stress on guys to get stuff going, you don’t have time to prepare. 

“Taking away the two preseason and adding two to the regular season, you’re going to get trashy football at the beginning, in the first two games. Look at the way the schedule is now, teams are struggling, they’re ice cold until after maybe the first four games.”

There is a general conflicting feel among players as to the value of the preseason. For veterans like Foster, or defensive end Cam Heyward, there is little benefit. 

“When it doesn’t count, it kind of sucks,” Heyward said. “I think last year I only played in two preseason games, so I might be the wrong candidate to ask. 

“Everybody’s different. Some guys, they want to see, who are coming off injury, how they deal with it, how they bounce back. But some guys they want to keep off the field. With less games, how are you going to really evaluate talent of your younger guys without throwing them into the fire in their first game?”

Preseason football is important for young players, without question. But is it worth the risk of putting the NFL’s stars in harm’s way in order to give unproven players an opportunity? Even players who may benefit from the preseason do not seem totally sure.

“Anything to get the the season the fastest I’m for,” joked Steelers receiver Ryan Switzer. “Being a guy who has fought for a roster spot before, that time and those games and that film is valuable, real valuable. 

“I don’t want to misspeak on anything, but obviously it’s a give-and-take. You take away some games and it’s better for you physically, mentally and health-wise. But then some guys, who might need that last game to put some things on tape, it might hurt them. So it’s a balance and when that I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision on.”

The NFL does need to find a balance. On top top the injury potential, fans have complained about having to pay for preseason games as a part of season ticket plans. 

“If they do 18 games, you have to think to yourself, are they going to lower ticket prices,” Foster questioned. “There’s got to be some give-and-take there somewhere.”

A suggestion has been thrown out to, instead of extending the regular season or shortening the preseason, make more teams eligible for the playoffs. A former that would include seven AFC and seven NFC teams has been rumored. 

“I like the seventh playoff team getting in more than the 18-game season,” Foster said. “I think you get better football in the playoffs. To add two more regular season games, you’re beating guys down, you’re shortening careers if that’s what you want to do. You might have a higher profit margin, but the product might not be as well. I think it’s a little bit of over-saturation if you add two more games.”

As the NFLPA rep, Foster is one of the key figures in the NFLPA’s ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions with the League. Last week, NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith sent a memo to players informing them to be prepared in case of a work stoppage next season.

“Right now, we’re working on a proposal for them,” Foster said. “The League wants to get something done too, pretty soon more than later. It’s good for everybody if we do. I know we’re all trying to put our hand in the pocket to get something done.”

Foster maintained that everyone wants to get a deal done. But, if the NFL is intent on extending the regualar season to 18 games, it could — among other issues — become a seriously divisive problem. A problem that no one wants.

Hear all of what Ramon Foster had to say below.