The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of only a handful of teams just a week ago that had not yet been directly affected by Covid-19 in their locker room, but that changed when veteran tight end Vance McDonald came down with the virus himself, which led four other players to be placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List along with him as high-risk close contacts.
Because of his positive diagnosis, McDonald may not be activated for at least 10 days, even if he tests negative for a series of days earlier than that. The high-risk close contacts, even if they don’t test positive, must be isolated for five days.
Earlier in the season, the Steelers talked about how their having a clean record and having nobody opt out of the season reflected their seriousness about the season and about how they are handling the virus. Of course, having had a player test positive doesn’t mean they were not taking it seriously, but it does show how imperfect the process is.
“I knew every team would be affected by this”, Cameron Heyward told reporters earlier today. “I didn’t know how. We’re all adapting. I don’t think anyone has the perfect protocols, in any sport, or any job, to eradicate Covid-19”.
As I write this, there are now only seven teams who have yet to have a positive case in their locker room since the start of the regular season, so a very large percentage of the league has already gone through the process the Steelers are facing. That includes the Cincinnati Bengals, their upcoming opponent, who are also going through it right now.
“I thought we did an adequate job. I thought guys were wired in today”, Heyward said about their first day back at practice since the positive test. “It’s tough with the virtual meetings, but I thought guys asked questions, continued to stay involved, and then we got on the field and were able to address the questions right then and there, and then hit the field on a stride. We’ve got to do the same thing throughout the week. Whatever permits, we’ve just got to be ready to attack on Sunday.”
The Steelers are preparing to host their first game at Heinz Field in three weeks following a three-game road trip. They are currently 4-0 at home and 4-0 on the road this season, and will be playing their third divisional game, and second at home.
They will, of course, be doing this without McDonald, but are hoping to get some other players, like Mike Hilton, Tyson Alualu, and Derek Watt, back on the field after having recently been unavailable. They are also hoping that their high-risk cases are cleared to play for the game, even though they won’t be able to practice. We could also see the Steelers debut of Avery Williamson.