Like most of us, Mike Tomlin begins each morning by checking his phone. But he isn’t scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. He’s waking up to check the results of the Steelers’ daily COVID testing. Even though the Cleveland Browns’ new cases are the story of the day, Tomlin says he already has enough reminders about the climate he’s coaching in.
“We don’t need a daily reminder because we have daily continual reminders of how fragile these circumstances are,” Tomlin told reporters during his Tuesday press conference. “Every morning at 6:00 AM, I am looking at my phone waiting for verification of the previous days test results. Are we in the clear? Or are we not?”
The Browns have again closed their team facility after several new positive COVID cases, including head coach Kevin Stefanski. That means Stefanski won’t coach Sunday, the man whose led the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002. But Tomlin’s focus is on him and his group. Not things out of his control.
“So what’s transpiring in Cleveland is not reinforcement or verification. It’s just more of the same for us, like it has been. And for everyone else throughout the course of this journey.”
Pittsburgh has done well to avoid any major outbreaks like what happened in Tennessee, Baltimore, and potentially what’s going on in Cleveland. But they haven’t totally avoided COVID-issues either. They’re dealing with them right now. Joe Haden is all but certain to sit out of Sunday night’s game after testing positive, which forced Eric Ebron and Cassius Marsh to be placed on the COVID list as presumed close contacts.
Headline stories like Cleveland are reminders of the world we live in. But there’s reminders in every aspect of life. From every single time you put on your mask, to daily testing for players and coaches, to the fact the Steelers have played without fans for a majority of the season.
Heading into the postseason, the Steelers say they and the rest of the league are doubling down on protocol to ensure they reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.
“We’re expanding testing availability to those around us. Friends and family, in an effort to continue to isolate this group. Spouses, significant others, children. But that’s a global initiative that that’s being provided to all that in the playoff field. I know from a protocol standpoint, your added precautions regarding travel.”
Understandably so, the NFL has no desire to postpone or reschedule any of their playoff games. Teams who are without chunks of their roster, or in Cleveland’s case, coaching staff, will just have to make do. While every other playoff team hopes to avoid being in their shoes. For Tomlin, that starts with a 6 AM text alert.