(Photo by Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)
According to Burt Lauten, the director of communications for the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has canceled Friday's practice. The team is waiting for clarification from the NFL on their game against the Baltimore Ravens which is scheduled for Sunday at 1:15 p.m. at Heinz Field.
The game was originally scheduled for last night, but a COVID-19 outbreak within the Ravens' organization caused the game to be postponed until Sunday afternoon. With it being reported last night that Ravens' quarterback Lamar Jackson tested positive for COVID-19, along with four more Ravens’ players and one more staff member reportedly testing positive for the virus, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the chances of the game being played on Sunday are murkier.
Schefter also reported that Ravens players were told today by John Harbaugh that, for everyone’s safety, they will not be allowed back in the training facility until Monday at the earliest.
Jackson is the eighth Ravens' player in the last week to test positive for the virus. Prior to Jackson testing positive, Baltimore placed eight players on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Monday -- running back Mark Ingram, running back J.K. Dobbins, nose tackle Brandon Williams (close contact), outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, defensive end Calais Campbell, offensive lineman Matt Skura, offensive lineman Patrick Mekari and defensive end Jihad Ward.
On Wednesday, it was reported by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network that the Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for not reporting symptoms and not consistently wearing a mask or tracking device, which may have contributed to the team's rash of COVID-19 cases.
Yesterday, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic reported that the staff member currently suspended by the Ravens is head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders.
If the game were to be forfeited: players on both teams would not be paid for that particular game. A forfeit would mean a loss for one team, but a loss for players on both teams. The owners did this to protect themselves in case they had to cancel a number of games due to a COVID-19 outbreak. However, the league sent a memo out after the Titans outbreak, which clearly states that forfeits are on the table if a team broke COVID-19 protocols, which the Ravens did with strength and conditioning coach, Saunders, who did not follow the guidelines.
According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network, league officials at the NFL are meeting later today to discuss the Ravens situation. A league source told Kinkhabwala that a decision on the game at the Steelers Sunday may not be made today, however. Test results from today don’t come in until tonight.
So, as of right now, the league has four options to consider. They can play the game on Sunday as scheduled or push it back to Monday or Tuesday night, they'll then have to reschedule the Ravens-Cowboys game on Thursday to Sunday or Monday night.
The worst option would be to postpone the game until later and possibly add Week 18 to the season. That would punish the Steelers furthermore for doing nothing wrong. And then there's always the forfeit scenario for violations of the protocol, which isn't out of the question. The league sent the memo out on Oct. 5. The Ravens' strength and conditioning coach, Saunders, acted recklessly. That's on Harbaugh and the Ravens' organization.