About an hour ago
Unless we find evidence to the contrary, Steelers fans shouldn’t blame the Tennessee Titans for being the first NFL team to become a covid-19 hotspot. Even if that news results in Sunday’s game between the clubs getting postponed or forfeited.
At least three players and five others within the Titans team have tested positive for the virus. So the status of the Steelers’ trip to Nashville for the matchup Sunday is in question.
I suppose details could emerge that some members of the Titans acted like the Miami Marlins and went out on the town. Maybe somebody on the team went to a strip club for their favorite chicken wings, like NBA player Lou Williams. Or someone brought a woman back to the team hotel, disguised in team gear like Seattle Seahawks rookie Kemah Siverand allegedly did back in August.
Or — and stay with me here — this is a virus. And germs spread. And people get sick, try as they might to avoid the illness.
If they aren’t in a bubble like the NBA and NHL players were, they aren’t 100% safe from infection in the outside world.
Tennessee linebackers coach Shane Bowen has now become the Rudy Gobert of the NFL. He’s the league’s patient zero. He’s the one who was put in the covid-19 protocol before the team left Nashville Saturday to play Minnesota.
That doesn’t mean he was rubbing his hands all over other people’s things, though, as Gobert did in that infamous video back in March.
Tennessee is deemed to be a “quarantine state” by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office. Bowen could’ve contracted the virus at home, the grocery store or gas station for all we know. Maybe he could’ve gotten it from one of the other Titans deemed to be positive, and he just tripped the test first.
ESPN reports that none of the people who tested positive with the team are symptomatic. Therefore, with nothing but previous daily negative tests under their belts, how were they to know?
Being exposed to the virus doesn’t necessarily mean bad behavior on the part of the Titans. It could just be bad luck.
Don’t call it the Titans’ fault. It is, however, the Titans’ problem. And it’s the NFL’s problem. It shouldn’t be the Steelers’ problem.
Which is why all the suggestions that have been thrown around for the past 24 hours about how to handle this situation are overcomplicating things.
The most obvious way to handle this situation is to have the Titans play the game against the Steelers on Sunday — or even Monday night — with whoever is healthy enough to play and whoever tests negative. If star running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill can’t suit up, oh well.
If the game is played and the Titans don’t get to practice until Saturday, too bad.
If they don’t have enough players to play, they forfeit. Sorry. Corona-life is tough.
The Steelers shouldn’t have to absorb a bye week in Week 3 because the Titans got sick. The Steelers shouldn’t have to play 13 straight weeks without a bye, potentially going into the playoffs, because the Titans got sick. The Steelers shouldn’t have to play three straight road games because the Titans got sick.
All that would have to happen if — as some have suggested — the Steelers take this weekend off and move their Week 7 game versus the Baltimore Ravens to Week 8. That’s feasible because the Ravens have a bye during Week 8 as well. So, in theory, this week’s game could be bumped to Week 7 (when the Tennessee bye is currently scheduled), and the Steelers and Ravens could push their contest to their mutual bye week.
But, frankly, while a minimal concession, the Ravens shouldn’t have to move their schedule around because the Titans got sick either.
The problem is if the NFL jumps through all these hoops to accommodate a rescheduling of the Steelers-Titans game, what if a game comes up when the rescheduling options aren’t so easy?
The one caveat is if the Steelers prefer to make those concessions as opposed to coming in close contact with a team full of players that have had exposure to the virus. Maybe the Steelers would prefer those annoyances in scheduling as opposed to so much covid risk.
But Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin says he hasn’t been asked for any input on the matter.
“Those discussions are ongoing,” Tomlin said. “That is their charge. Our mentality is that we are going to proceed as if regularly scheduled until we receive further information. So I haven’t gotten into a bunch of that.”
I kick around all these potential outcomes with TribLive Steelers beat writer Joe Rutter during our weekly podcast after Tomlin’s press conference. We also get into the X’s and O’s of Steelers-Titans. Where the Steelers rank among the AFC’s elite. The prospect of going 4-0 for the first time since 1979. And the fallout from the Ravens loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
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