The Pittsburgh Steelers are, for the second consecutive week, operating under the league’s intensive Covid-19 protocols as they continue to deal with players and personnel who have either tested positive for the coronavirus, have been deemed high-risk close contacts of someone who has, or who has at least shown symptoms of the virus.
As it stands, the team currently has two players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, those being tight end Vance McDonald, who first tested positive last Sunday, and rookie lineman Kevin Dotson, who missed practice at the end of last week and was placed on the list on Saturday.
While McDonald will be eligible to return to the 53-man roster in the middle of the week, when Dotson would be eligible is unclear, because it is not known if he tested positive. If he did, then he would be certain to miss the upcoming game as well, and given the timeline, would likely be in jeopardy of missing the Thursday game against the Baltimore Ravens due to an inability to practice.
Regardless of the personnel available, however, head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff is looking to do a better job on their end than they did last week. Part of the intensive protocols that are initiated when there is a positive test is the requirement that all meetings be conducted virtually, and Tomlin confesses that this is more of a burden on the older coaching staff than on the young players.
“It is my hope that we do a better job this week than we did a week ago. Better instructing, better listening, better use of the time, better understanding of the technology and the resources at our disposal in an effort to combat the challenges that are associated with it”, he told reporters earlier today, also acknowledging that even under the best of circumstances, it is not the same as in-person instruction.
“No question, you lose a little bit when you’re not in the same physical space, when you don’t get a chance to look in a man’s eyes or feel the reactions to the information”, he said. “As a staff, we’re working extremely hard to avail ourselves of all the options in that regard in effort to be at our best”.
Tomlin said that the players themselves appear to be very comfortable with the digital environment, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, given that they have grown up with the technology, by and large, and expressed an openness to learning from them how to better instruct them as teachers.
“I’m working hard not to be resistant to” virtual meetings, the head coach conceded. “Our coaches are doing the same, but some of us are dinosaurs. We give ground grudgingly if you will, but more than anything, we are gaining experience with it. The more experience you gain, the more comfortable you get, the more innovative you get, and hopefully that is transpiring for all of us”.
For the moment, the Steelers have no choice but to operate under these conditions, and to strive to be better now than they were last week. Perhaps in the future, they can adapt what they have learned through this trial into the instructional process going forward to reinforce their messages.