Perhaps the only topic discussed more surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent days than the fact that their game against the Baltimore Ravens, originally scheduled to be played yesterday, on Thanksgiving night, is the pervasive opinion among a large number of fans that the only, or at least the most fair action that the league could take would be to force the Ravens to forfeit the game and award the Steelers a victory.
Several weeks ago, after multiple games had to be postponed, the NFL sent out a memo to teams notifying them that future violations of Covid-19 protocols that interrupts the schedule could potentially be subject to severe punishment that rises to the level of forfeiture of draft capital, and possibly even the forfeiture of a game.
To date, while a number of organizations have drawn fines, including the Steelers themselves, there has only been one occasion so far this year that the league found rose to the standard of extreme violation, which resulted in the Las Vegas Raiders being stripped of a late-round draft pick in addition to substantial fines after finding frequent and significant protocol violations.
Based on what we know about the Ravens’ situation, it would be a bridge too far to take a game away from the Ravens. From reports, it sounds like the primary source of the outbreak within their organization traces back to their head strength and conditioning coach, who failed to report symptoms and was not wearing a mask.
Given the confidence expressed by Dr. Allen Sills that they had a handle on what the transmission event and timeline was, it seems likely that the NFL is in agreement that the transmissions probably trace back to interactions with this individual, and subsequently, interactions with one another.
I’m certain almost all Steelers fans would be livid, and the players certainly would be, if Pittsburgh were stripped of a game because conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont wasn’t wearing a mask in the facility while displaying symptoms of the coronavirus.
Punishments of forfeiture are reserved for extreme, brazen, and repeated violations of the Covid-19 protocol. This doesn’t even come close to approaching that. Whether or not anything is ‘fair’ to the Steelers has no bearing on whether or not another organization deserves to have a game stripped away from them for a lax moment in their protocols that had extreme consequences.
An example of a team action that could potentially merit a game forfeiture would be if a team holds multiple unsanctioned workouts after the league forces their facility to close due to an outbreak, and that results in positives that require the league to postpone a game. We’re not dealing with anything in that ballpark.
Oh, and there is the little nuisance of the fact that it is literally written into the Covid-19 CBA addendum that players will not be paid for games that are not paid—and that to attempt to pay them anyway would be in breach of the rules. You can’t compensate players outside of the realm of their contract, in which they are paid a per-game salary for games that are played.
In other words, Steelers players don’t want the game to be forfeited, either. They lose money.