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The Path Back From COVID For Ben Roethlisberger And Minkah Fitzpatrick

As all Steelers fans know by now, QB Ben Roethlisberger missed Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions after landing on the Reserve/Covid-19 list the day before.  He reportedly developed symptoms on Friday night and informed the team physician.  After undergoing a Covid test on Saturday that came back positive, Big Ben was ruled out.

Steelers Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick played the whole game on Sunday.  The following day, the team announced that he was added to the Reserve/Covid-19 list as well.  According to ESPN’s Kimberley Martin, this was the result of a positive test:

So will these two star players make the trip to Los Angeles to face the Chargers next Sunday?  Since both players are vaccinated against Covid-19, their path back is straightforward.

For Roethlisberger, who was symptomatic initially, this is the protocol that applies to him:

So which pathway will Big Ben need?  Gerry Dulac reported today that the QB will undergo a Covid test today.  Based on this update, we can assume that Roethlisberger’s symptoms have resolved – if he was still having fever or other symptoms, there would be no point in repeating his Covid test.  This test would be the first of the two negative tests that are 24h apart needed to be cleared for return to practice and play.  If the first test is negative, he would be able to repeat the test on Wednesday and if that test is also negative, Ben could rejoin the team for practice that day.

There have not been any reports as to whether Minkah has had symptoms but it is likely that he hasn’t given the timing of his test so soon after the game.  Here is the algorithm for asymptomatic players from the NFL protocol:

If Minkah has no symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.), he just needs two negative Covid tests 24h apart and could return to practice as soon as Wednesday as well.  If, however, the star safety is experiencing symptoms, that would delay his return either until his symptoms resolve for 48h and he has two negative test results 24h apart or 10 days have passed after the initial positive test as long as his fever has resolved and whatever symptoms he had have decreased.

Bottom line, there is still a very good chance that both players will return to practice this week and be ready to face the Chargers at SoFi Stadium next Sunday.

UPDATE:  In his weekly Tuesday press conference today, Head Coach Mike Tomlin gave some clarification on both players.  Regarding Roethlisberger, Tomlin stated that Ben has an opportunity to play Sunday provided that he gets the required negative tests.  That would go along with my speculation that Ben’s symptoms have resolved.  It looks like Minkah won’t be available against the Chargers, as Tomlin said “we don’t anticipate him coming back [in time for Sunday’s game].”  This indicates that Minkah Fitzpatrick does, in fact, have symptoms of Covid-19.


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