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The four players who were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List can return to the team on Saturday if they continue to test negative.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with their first COVID-19 situation of the 2020 regular season as Vance McDonald has tested positive for the virus. McDonald will not be available for the Steelers Week 10 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the four players who were also placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List after being deemed “close contacts” could return on Saturday and therefore be available for Sunday’s game. The four players who could return for the Steelers are quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, linebacker Vince Williams, running back Jaylen Samuels, and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins.
The first step in player’s return is continuing to test negative as well as not showing any symptoms. All players must self isolate and will only be available virtually for game preparation this week. If all goes well, they can re-join the team on Saturday before walk-throughs.
When it comes to players availability for Sunday’s game after not practicing all week, Coach Tomlin says they are optimistic all four players will be available on Sunday.
“Those guys will be working remotely throughout the week and testing daily,” Tomlin explained. “As long as their tests come back negative, we believe that all four guys have an opportunity to be made available to us on Saturday.”
A players experience of familiarity with the team is going to be a big factor as to whether or not they will dress on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger and Vince Williams have been with the Steelers for many years and can step in to play without on-field reps. Tomlin even mentioned how the added rest could benefit these players at this point of the season.
“Some of the guys have more experience than others,” Tomlin continued, “and we will lean on that experience. Guys like Ben (Roethlisberger) and Vince (Williams) may have an opportunity to suit up and play for us this weekend. They will simply work remotely and sharpen their swords in that way. Really, it will probably give their bodies an opportunity to get some much-needed rest, and we’re optimistic those guys will be their normal selves if given an opportunity to play this weekend.”
It can be assumed Ben Roethlisberger and Vince Williams will both play on Sunday as long as they are able to come off the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Saturday. As for Jaylen Samuels and Jerald Hawkins, they may fall into a different category according to Tomlin.
“Some of the others, we will make judgments based on how the week transpires. Their lack of a résumé or experience could be a factor in determining whether or not we use those guys. That’s just the reality of it.”
The use of Samuels or Hawkins on Sunday will most liekly be less about them and more about the rest of the players at their position. If the Steelers are confident in their other options who have received the practice reps in preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals, there is a good chance both players could be inactive on Sunday.
Ironically, before Vance McDonald ended up on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, Jaylen Samuels was the last player on the Steelers who was on the list. Samuels was placed on the list during the training camp at the beginning of August and was the last player to return to the team on August 13.
While Tomlin is hopeful players will be available and can say they will play as long as they are activated, testing and protocols will ultimately dictate if players can return from the Reserve/COVID-19 List. Therefore, the Steelers will be hopeful both Roethlisberger and Williams will be available for Sunday, but will ultimately make a game plan in which neither player can take the field.
Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continuing coverage as the Steelers prepare to face the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at Heinz Field.
For more information on Tomlin’s Press Conference, check out the Press Conference Recap podcast below: