The Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to face the Tennessee Titans on the road on Sunday. As of this writing, there is no definitive answer as to when exactly that game will take place, after the Titans organization experienced what is so far an eight-person Covid-19 outbreak, a number that could potentially increase in the coming days.
So far, we have heard about a number of potential alternative plans, with the possibility of the game being held on either Monday or Tuesday night, or possibly not until the middle of the season, which would require a bit of rearranging to have the teams’ scheduled bye weeks to coincide.
In the event that the game takes place as normal, it will be done under a state of competitive disequilibrium to some degree, as the Titans’ facility will be close for at least one or two days, and potentially even up to Saturday, as it is thoroughly decontaminated and evaluated for protocol adherence.
If that is how it’s done, then that is how it’s done, plain and simple. Every team in the league entered this season understanding that there could arise a situation in which there would be some competitive imbalances. Some teams have been able to play in front of fans. Many others have not.
Now with the league’s first Covid-19 issue, we’re seeing how that will unfold during a game week. Head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday, in addressing reporters in the evening, discussed that competitive balance issue and the fact that this was a known possibility.
“I was also very clear that once we left the station and got all teams into a training camp-like setting we as a collective”, he said, “meaning the National Football League, acknowledged that this COVID environment could be challenging to that. We all proceeded with that understanding”.
The Titans placed three players on the reserve/Covid-19 list. Five additional staff members, including coaches, also tested positive. Prior to Sunday’s game, their linebackers coach also tested positive, and that result was not included in the tally of the eight new cases.
It is not yet known where this particular outbreak originated, and whether or not anybody is showing symptoms that should be of any concern, but this is an example of how important it is to address the issue as soon as possible in order to try to prevent it from spreading further.
Week after week, we were receiving positive updates that usually included no new positive cases among players, and a very small handful among several thousands of others who are subject to daily testing. But now there is an issue just three weeks into traveling and competitive play.
Will this serve as a lesson to the other teams, to remind them that yes, it could happen to them, too, and it could put their team at a disadvantage? Earlier this week, several members of the Las Vegas Raiders, including Derek Carr and Darren Waller, attended a fundraising event for Waller’s charity association in an indoor venue without wearing masks, which has prompted the team to investigate.