The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the final handful of teams remaining who had not been touched by the coronavirus in their locker room a week ago. Things changed when veteran tight end Vance McDonald tested positive a week ago and was placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, resulting in him missing today’s game.
Four other players deemed high-risk close contacts—quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, linebacker Vince Williams, offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins, and running back Jaylen Samuels—were all placed on the list, but were able to be cleared in time for today’s game because they never tested positive and had been self-isolating.
Prior to the game, however, two more players came down with an illness. Neither dressed for the game, and one, lineman Kevin Dotson, ended up being placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List himself, though he was never confirmed to have tested positive. He and fellow rookie Anthony McFarland, who did not play, missed the end of last week’s practice with ‘illness’, and in fact were told not to report because of that.
Because of the positive case and the ramifications, the Steelers had to enter intensive protocols last week, which included holding all meetings virtually. After today’s game, Tomlin said, “I’d imagine we’re going to remain where we are” in terms of the protocols.
“I don’t know how comfortable I am. I don’t know that any of us are comfortable, but we’d better be comfortable with what it is we need to do”, he added, “and that’s work our tails off to remain COVID-free and safeguard ourselves and each other, and I think that’s what we’re committed to”.
According to Steelers spokesperson Burt Lauten, the Steelers’ UPMC Rooney Sports Complex will be undergoing a deep clean on Monday and will be closed to all players except those who require access, such as those who may be undergoing rehab treatments.
We’re only in the middle of November. If this is a Super Bowl team, then they still have three months to get through, and that means not only remaining diligent with regards to how everybody handles themselves away from the facility, but even stepping up their game.
Cases have risen all around the country in recent weeks, to the point where we are now averaging more than 150,000 new infections every day over the course of the past week. Just yesterday, for the first time ever, we crossed over to 4 million active cases nationwide.
The NFL has been very clear that they anticipate they will have an increase in positive cases within their own ranks as we see cases rise around the country because these are individuals who are a part of their local communities.
Without enduring a bubble environment, there is only so much that players and coaches and staff can do to keep themselves out of positions in which they pose a high risk of infection. The Steelers by and large appear to have been diligent about it, and yet it has hit even them. It’s likely that by the time the season ends, every team will have grappled with it.