It’s the middle of January, right at the heart of winter in Pittsburgh—and in Foxboro. Flu season is upon us, and, unfortunately, it’s also upon the Pittsburgh Steelers, as several players, and reportedly other members of the organization, are being taken down with the illness, at virtually the worst possible time.
The Steelers, of course, are in the preparation phase of taking on the Patriots up in Foxboro in the AFC Championship game, for which they will be traveling shortly. But the flu bug has been sweeping the locker room and knocking players out of practice. Such a thing like this is awfully difficult to contain inside a locker room.
More than a dozen people have come down with the flu in the early stages of this week, Jeremy Fowler writes for ESPN. He also writes on Twitter that there has been a short uptick in the consumption of bananas over the course of the week, noting an increase of about 40 pounds in a typical week now closer to 50 pounds, he was told.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin is not about to submit to a microscopic virus, though he did say that he is “just thankful that I’ve stayed out of the line of fire” in terms of not falling ill—yet. “We’re not making excuses”, he said. “There won’t be [any excuses]. We’ll be there, we’ll be ready to play, this is just part of normal things that happen over the course of a season”.
That is all well and good, although as Alex Kozora noted during his mailbag session yesterday, the Raiders attributed an earlier loss this year at least in part to the fact that a flu bug ran rampant across their locker room when their head coach was asked about them appearing to be less energetic, or something in that spirit.
For what it’s worth, Ramon Foster also insisted that the illnesses will not affect the team’s ability to play, essentially insinuating that anybody with a bad stomach will just plug themselves up before suiting up, and then go about business as normal.
But, of course, football players are human, and nobody functions at peak efficiency when they are ill. It certainly will not be the sole reason if they do end up losing to the Patriots on Sunday, but it should go without saying that there is no benefit to several members of the team taking ill before the biggest game of the season, and the second-biggest possible game a player can ever face.
Today is the final meaningful day of practices before heading to Massachusetts, so hopefully we get a nice, clean injury report and find many players stricken by the flu finding the ability to participate in practice. While they still have a day or two to recover, it’s kind of hard to play in a game that you don’t get reps for.