The Pittsburgh Steelers should understand more than most teams the impact that a pandemic could have on the season. After all, even though they have had no positive Covid-19 cases since training camp opened, they were the first team in NFL history to have a game moved because of a virus.
Their scheduled opponent for week four, the Tennessee Titans, experienced an outbreak that has now crossed the 20-person threshold, and it has gotten to the point where their next game, too, may be in jeopardy. That, however, is no longer the Steelers’ problem, even as other teams pop up with a positive test here and there.
“To think we weren’t going to have positive tests is ludicrous”, Steelers defensive captain Cameron Heyward told reporters yesterday, via the team’s website. “What you’re trying to eliminate is the amount of tests back to back and have it widespread throughout a community in the NFL. We’re trying to wear masks. We’re trying to social distance. You’re trying to just adhere to the protocols and just follow”.
As players and coaches from other teams come out and acknowledge that those who violate the protocols should be held accounted for—when they are directly asked questions about it, of course—most understand that they only control a small piece of the puzzle, which is what they themselves do, and who they can influence.
“I can only preach it to the young guys, and the older guys, as well, when you leave this facility that has a lasting effect on our team. Everybody has to do their job”, Heyward said. “There’s going to be more positives. It’s our job to minimize the amount it takes over a team”.
“If one guy gets it or two guys get it we’re able to respond accordingly”, he continued. “But when an entire team and it spreads throughout your coaching staff and your team, it’s going to be hard to really deal with the effects of that”.
One message that head coach Mike Tomlin has stressed throughout this offseason process has been the necessity, not just for his team and his players, but for the league as a whole, to be light on their feet and adaptable, because a virus is one thing that they cannot control. It’s out there, so all you can do is avoid it the best you can and eliminate it when it does pop up.
While the league has only experienced a little over 80 total unique positive tests to date since the start of training camp, the reality is that over a third of those positives have come in just the past two weeks, with, of course, the vast majority of those in Tennessee, but three other teams have already had in-season confirmed positives among players. So far, all but the Titans were allowed to carry on with their scheduled games. For one of those teams, they quickly triggered two new positives within days of that game.