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Rooney doubts playoffs will expand

PITTSBURGH -- Don't look at NFL playoff expansion as a slam dunk.

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney said Wednesday he doesn't expect the league to expand the playoffs by two teams in 2015.

Adding a wild-card team in each conference has been discussed for several years and certainly will be a hot topic at the owners meetings in March. But Rooney cast doubt on it happening.

"I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of adding a playoff team or adding a team from each conference," Rooney said. "But my view on that depends a lot on what goes with it. Schedule is certainly a factor: When would this game be played? The fact that we would now wind up with likely only having one team in each conference with a bye is not a great outcome.

"There are things like that I think we would have to look at and think through before a decision is made on this, and that may be one reason why this is probably not a decision that gets made this year."

Commissioner Roger Goodell has supported two more wild-card teams, bringing the playoff field from 12 to 14. So do many owners, although the league previously has delayed a vote on expanding the playoffs.

But because the players' union vehemently opposes a lengthening of the regular season to 17 or 18 games, the only realistic option for the NFL to provide more games is to add playoff teams.

Had there been 14 playoff teams this season, a 9-7 record would have earned the final spot in the AFC -- Houston, Kansas City, Buffalo and San Diego all had that record -- while Philadelphia would have gotten in at 10-6 in the NFC.

The league's TV partners wouldn't mind the idea of more playoff games, and there's the prospect of playing both of the additional wild cards in prime time. The new setup would mean one first-round playoff bye in each conference, with six wild-card-round games instead of the current four.

In May, Goodell painted a positive scenario for expanding the playoffs.

"I do believe it will be approved for the 2015 season," Goodell said. "We want to see how it will impact in a positive way from a competitive standpoint. Will it create more excitement, more races toward the end of the season? Who will ultimately qualify for the playoffs?"

One change that Rooney seems unlikely to champion during the offseason is expanding the scope of plays that can be reviewed.

The issue became a hot-button one after Detroit lost 24-20 to the Dallas in an NFC wild-card game. Officials picked up a flag in the fourth quarter after it looked like the Cowboys were going to get penalized for pass interference on a critical third down.

Rules did not allow Lions coach Jim Caldwell to challenge whether there had indeed been a penalty on the play, and Dallas ended up rallying for the win. Rooney said he does not favor adding to the plays that can be reviewed because it would increase the length of games, something that might test fans' patience.

"I'm not going to say I'm opposed to any changes because if there's something that's really improving it, I'd look at it," Rooney said. "But I'm not anxious to add more reviewable plays from the standpoint we have enough stoppages in the game, enough reviews that I don't think we need more. I don't think we need more stoppages. In fact, I'm not opposed to having less."

ESPN Steelers reporter Scott Brown contributed to this report.