2020 Offseason Questions: What Happens If A Team Can’t Fill Out A Gameday Active Roster This Season?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: What would the NFL do in the event that a team can’t field enough players to fill a gameday active roster due to Covid-19-related quarantining?

Short of the prospect of games that matter actually being cancelled, I can’t think of another question that more successfully gets straight to the heart of how potentially bizarre the 2020 football season can be than this one.

Two months ago—three months ago—we were talking about how much time there still his between that point and the start of the NFL season, and how that’s a long time for things to change, and to get better. But by many metrics, they’re not getting better. We’re continuing to see tens of thousands of new cases every day.

I don’t think any of us discussing this back in March thought we would still be facing the prospect that it would still be this widespread, now with over 2.5 million total cases in the United States alone, more than half of which are currently active cases.

Quarantining has to be taken seriously, and that means the NFL has to be prepared for the event that star players have to be put in quarantine and prevented from playing if they are exposed to somebody who is positive.

That opens the gate for the possibility of a mass quarantining of a large portion of a team, to the extent that they may not even have enough players to fill a gameday active roster. Discussions are ongoing about how to handle such situations, I don’t doubt. Do they forfeit the game? Do they postpone the game? Are they forced to play shorthanded?

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