2020 South Side Questions: How Will Game Prep Be Affected By Covid-19 Protocols?

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

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: How will the Steelers’ game preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals be affected by their Covid-19 situation this week?

After making it through the first eight weeks of the season, the Steelers finally butted heads with the coronavirus in their own locker room, with tight end Vance McDonald testing positive. Four other players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, were deemed high-risk close contacts and placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List as well.

While his positive test means that McDonald must miss the team’s next game, those who are merely close contacts can still be activated an play in Sunday’s game as long as they continue to test negative, but they will have to work virtually during the week as part of the protocols.

Roethlisberger and Vince Williams are two of the most experienced, most veteran players on the roster. Not to be flippant, but it really doesn’t matter very much if Jerald Hawkins or Jaylen Samuels miss practice time. Many don’t even think Samuels should be on the roster. Hawkins is the backup tackle, but as long as the starters remain healthy, they are hardly using the tackle-eligible lately, and Kevin Dotson could do that.

But it’s hard to run offensive installation concepts in practice without your starting quarterback, and this feels like a week in which they would be tweaking things after two games of slow starts followed by resorting to the no huddle in the second half.

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