Almost lost within the sea of coronavirus cases coming out of Baltimore is the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers placed three players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List themselves, including starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt, has been one of their best players in 2020. Also placed on the list are defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins.
This is the second time that Hawkins has spent time on the Reserve/Covid-19 List. He spent time there a couple of weeks ago when he was deemed a high-risk close contact of tight end Vance McDonald, who tested positive for the coronavirus. Hawkins was able to be cleared in time to play for the following game.
At this present time, we do not know whether or not the individuals named above have tested positive or if they have been deemed high-risk close contacts, or if there is a mixture of both involved here, and that greatly clouds the potential timeline we’re dealing with here. Suffice it to say, however, that their status is in jeopardy not just for Tuesday’s game, but also the next game on Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
High-risk close contacts must clear a minimum of five days since their last close contact with a positive case. This means that in order for any of these three players to be eligible to play on Tuesday, they will have had to have last had contact with a positive case no later than on Wednesday. Unless they were exposed to cases on Thanksgiving with their families, then it likely was Wednesday or earlier, since the Steelers’ facility was shut down on Thursday.
If they tested positive, then it is a virtual certainty that they will miss the Ravens game, even if they are asymptomatic. If they tested positive and are experiencing symptoms, then it will be very difficult. If their symptoms first appeared yesterday, then they will be ineligible to play next Sunday, because it is within 10 days. Symptomatic positive cases must be held out a minimum of 10 days since the first onset of symptoms were reported to the club’s medical staff.
If they became symptomatic on Thursday, then next Sunday would be 10 days, and that would put them within the window to return. But many players who test positive spend more than 10 days on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, in part because it can take a long time before you begin to test negative. This is especially the case when you are tested every day, so you almost surely catch your first possible positive right away.
McDonald spent 16 days on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, for example, and we know that he was a symptomatic case because he missed practice with an illness prior to testing positive. The same is the case for lineman Kevin Dotson, who is now on his 15th day on reserve.
Given this timeline, not only might Tuitt and company be at risk of missing the Washington game, we could be looking at the Buffalo Bills game as well, and potentially longer. This is just a situation where we won’t know anything more until we know. The only things we can know are the hypotheticals.