As I write this, the Pittsburgh Steelers have placed four players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List in the past week, with at least running back James Conner having tested positive, while quarterbacks coach Matt Canada and special teams coordinator Danny Smith have also reportedly tested positive.
According to a Tweet from Adam Schefter yesterday afternoon, the team and the league were monitoring a number of other individuals as potential high-risk close contacts, so we could see more players added to the list today through this. The Steelers placed four players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List as high-risk close contacts when tight end Vance McDonald tested positive weeks ago.
More positives in Pittsburgh: One coach and one player tested positive with multiple contacts in Pittsburgh, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 28, 2020
It is important to note, however, that there is a good chance any close contact of Conner or any other player who tested positive would be cleared by the time the Steelers are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday.
This is because the five-day restriction begins not from when a player is placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List as a high-risk close contact, but from the day that he last had close contact with a positive case. Pittsburgh has not practiced since Wednesday, and they may not have even had players in the facility at all since then.
So if we see close contacts placed on reserve today, know that there is a good chance that they could still play on Tuesday, just two days from now, if their five-day period began the day after Wednesday. A player must have five days of isolation beginning on the day after that contact, so a Wednesday contact would make these players eligible to be activated on Monday.
It’s an identical timeline from the close contacts surrounding McDonald, when four players were placed on reserve on Tuesday, were activated on Saturday, and then played on Sunday—including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw a season-high four touchdowns.
Needless to say, there is still a lot that we don’t know here, but we do know what the protocols say. As long as close contacts continue to post negative test results and their return is approved by the requisite medical professionals, they will be good to go.
Generally speaking, from what we have seen around the league, players who are close contacts of a positive player typically are placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List a day later than the actual positive player. Conner was placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List yesterday, so it wouldn’t be surprising that he would have gone on alone if there were close contacts.
As far as the veteran running back goes, it sounds as though he is in good health and good spirits, possibly (hopefully) asymptomatic). While that would in theory allow him to return earlier than otherwise, his status must be monitored for the next couple of games to see if he will be available.