At this point in the season, I don’t know that there are any franchises who have not been touched by the coronavirus. If there are any remaining who have been able to avoid any positive player cases, then the number is in the low single digits. A large number of teams even currently have active cases—including both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, who are on track to play on Tuesday after their Thursday game had been postponed twice.
As we speak, the Ravens are preparing to expand their Reserve/Covid-19 List up to at least 23 total players, including 21 from the past week alone, but it is also possible that we could see some names—especially nose tackle Brandon Williams—come off the list if they were close contacts who continued to test negative.
As the Steelers prepare to face a team that will be without its top quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, pass rusher, fullback, and long snapper, among other starters and reserves, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if the Ravens’ plight served as a cautionary tale for his own team.
“We don’t need cautionary tales”, he told reporters yesterday in addressing the media for the first time since last Sunday. “We live in this every day. We’ve been living it every day. We’ve been tested daily since July 20. We listen to all the protocols and all the memos and things delivered to us from New York. We have taken this very seriously. It’s just confirmation of what we already know”.
Even though they have done (almost) everything they can, that hasn’t stopped them from being impacted. The Steelers currently have five players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, including rookie guard Kevin Dotson, who has been there for over two weeks. They recently added Stephon Tuitt, James Conner, Isaiah Buggs, and Jerald Hawkins to the list in the past few days, and two coaches were also reported to have tested positive.
As a reminder, the Steelers are not wholly innocent in the NFL’s saga with Covid-19 this year. Tomlin and the organization were fined several weeks ago because he, and at least defensive coordinator Keith Butler, were seen to not be wearing masks for an extended period of time during a game.
While they can only receive so much of the blame for it, they also played a game in which tight end Vance McDonald was an active participant despite having already tested positive for Covid-19. They did not learn of the positive result until the next morning; however, he had missed practice time leading up to the week due to illness, and flew with the rest of the team, which led to four other players missing the following week of practice due to being classified as high-risk close contacts.