Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday that the Steelers are not anticipating having veteran safety Minkah Fitzpatrick available to them in time for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers while he is on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
The Steelers have played 39 games since trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019. He has played in 39 games (40 if you include the postseason). But it looks as though he is on the verge of missing the first game of his career, after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List this week.
Some media reports have suggested that Fitzpatrick is vaccinated, which would mean that he does not have to remain on the reserve list for a full 10 days if he can pass two COVID-19 tests with negatives at least 24 hours apart while also being symptom-free for 48 hours.
Head coach Mike Tomlin yesterday said during his pre-game press conference that they “don’t anticipate him coming back” this week. When asked for clarification as to why he anticipated that, and if it was due to there not being enough time to clear the protocol, he said, “correct, to my knowledge. But again, I don’t have the details. I’m just assuming that’s the case”.
Truth be told, that’s not really what I want to hear from Tomlin. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to know the details of the COVID-19 return protocols. Yeah, he has a game plan to assemble, coaches to instruct, and players to coach, but other head coaches around the league seem to be able to make time for many of the things he’s asked about and to which he responds with some variation of “I hadn’t really thought about it”.
Either way, it would be pretty hard to test negative twice within a week of your first positive test, especially if you have displayed any symptoms, though we have no idea whether or not the safety has been symptomatic. We don’t know when the Steelers’ weekly COVID-19 tests for vaccinated players takes place, either, which would be helpful.
Ben Roethlisberger got tested on a Saturday because he was symptomatic. Was Fitzpatrick tested on Monday because that’s the day they test, or because he was having symptoms? Either way, the long and short of it is that there’s a really good chance he doesn’t make the trip to Los Angeles, and misses his first game as a professional.