Updated: Dec 2, 2020
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
The Steelers were back at practice today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side after having three consecutive days off due to their game against the Ravens being postponed twice because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Ravens' organization. The Steelers-Ravens game is now scheduled for Tuesday at 8 p.m.
"It was good to get the group back on the grass today," Mike Tomlin said in a Zoom interview with the media today. "Guys got three days off their feet which was really good. We are comfortable with our level of preparedness from a planning standpoint. We worked extremely hard at the front part of the week to be able to deliver a quality performance on a short week. The added days rest was not a negative. It was a positive for us. We had a holiday, so it was nice from that perspective. I know our players have enjoyed the three day's rest. There was a lot of energy at practice today. It can be a positive thing if we make it that and I know that is our intention, I know it is for me.
"We had some COVID circumstances of our own. We released the names out on the COVID list. We've adapted. Today was about making sure we had a nice division of labor and everybody understood their roles. We start to lean in on kickoff at this juncture."
The Steelers placed defensive end Stephon Tuitt, defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins and running back James Conner on the reserve/COVID-19 list in the past two days. All four will be inactive for Tuesday night.
With Conner on the reserve/COVID-19 list and Jaylen Samuels (quad) being ruled out already for Tuesday, along with Trey Edmunds being placed on the reserve/injured list this past week. The Steelers are left with Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. to carry the load at running back.
"I have no reservation about Benny Snell as a featured runner," Tomlin said.
Tomlin said the Steelers had no positive COVID-19 tests today, but that doesn't necessarily make him comfortable that tomorrow's tests will not have any positives.
"I don't know I can say I am confident of anything in this environment. I know that I got great news today that we have no positives," Tomlin said. "That is the global mentality of all of us, it's day-to-day. It's a sensitive situation. You're talking about degrees of confidence and that nature, that's a slippery slope."
With Tuitt and Buggs out for Tuesday, the Steelers will need some players to step up. Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis are the five defensive linemen that will be active for the game against the Ravens.
"We're going to utilize all of the players at our disposal," Tomlin said. "We'll distribute those reps among the group. The strength of the pack will be the pack in that regard. You talk about a guy like Tuitt and the impact he makes, it's not a one-man job, it's an all-man job."
Heyward said he was glad to have the three straight days off from practice.
"I needed it, so I'm not going to complain about it," he said. "We had some guys that had nicks and bruises that could use the rest. Whether it is taking care of your body, spending time with family, getting extra preparation, this is a week we can take advantage of it, so I thought we did that."
It's not the first time this year that the Steelers had to face adversity due to a situation that was out of their control. They had their bye week moved from Week 8 to Week 4 when the Titans had a COVID-19 outbreak.
"This is just a chapter in our book," Heyward told his teammates. "This is something we will be able to write down in the future and hopefully it is along with a Super Bowl, but for this group, we just keep rolling with it.
"We understand that every team is going through something like this. Not to this extent, but we have to be ready for any situation. I think Coach (Tomlin) has laid out the plan. It's up for us to follow it, and it's up for us to bounce back with it."
Tomlin said he has no worries that his team won't be prepared to play on Tuesday night after having their game postponed twice.
"I'm 100% confident of that," he said when asked about his team's focus and readiness after an unusual week. "This group was leaning in on a short week, having an opportunity to be a part of a Thanksgiving prime-time game. Everybody grew up on football on Thanksgiving. They were excited about being a part of that. I think it's a natural response to be disappointed to lose that opportunity, but that's over. We are getting focused on Tuesday night. Some of our MAC guys are completely comfortable with playing on Tuesday night, so we are excited about it."