With the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals being hit with Covid-19 in the past two weeks, the number of teams that have not been affected in their locker rooms during the regular season has dwindled down to just seven as we reach the halfway mark.
And as cases rise around the country, it’s reasonable to assume that the list will be even smaller by the time the season is over—if there even is a list, as even Roger Goodell acknowledged yesterday that they anticipated there would be a rise in player cases as community cases rise because the players are a part of their community.
As they prepare to host their divisional foes, they now have five players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, though only one—tight end Vance McDonald—has so far tested positive, and there is currently no anticipation that the other four will.
One of those four is none other than the franchise, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is close friends with McDonald, and he is not the first starting quarterback to go through this. Baker Mayfield is on the reserve is right now. Matthew Stafford recently went through it. Cam Newton actually tested positive and missed a game.
How do the Steelers feel about going through this week of work without their own quarterback? How do they anticipate that that will disrupt their game-planning process? Apparently, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, not much.
“I’m not overly concerned about it. This guy has been doing his job for 17 years”, he told reporters yesterday. “He’s got snap experience that he can call upon. We are still going to work extremely hard virtually to prepare. A lot of his work is above the neck anyway in terms of preparation. I have very little concern about it, to be quite honest with you”.
He does, after all, have nearly 250 total games under his belt over the better part of two decades. Roethlisberger has done this for a long time, and he has gotten in several good weeks’ of work with his newer targets over the course of the first two months of the season, so breaking in rhythmic connections is not much of an issue at this point in the year.
The Baltimore Ravens had more than half of their starting defense on the Covid-19 Lost for the work week last week, yet went on to hold the Indianapolis Colts to 10 points, so there is certainly precedent for teams being able to play at a high level after a compromised work week.