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Humphrey, McDonald Cases Show Significant Flaw in NFL’s Testing Protocol

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For the second straight week, the Pittsburgh Steelers played a game with a player that was COVID-19 positive.

Steelers tight end Vance McDonald received a positive test result on Monday from a test that was taken before the team’s win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The same thing occurred the week before, when Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey tested positive.

PCR tests, the most accurate form of testing available for the novel coronavirus, take about 24 hours to turn around, so tests taken on Sunday before the game are not read until Monday.

When it comes to the timing of the virus showing up on a test, that presents a significant loophole in the NFL’s testing protocol. Both Humphrey and McDonald missed practice earlier in the week after exhibiting symptoms, but subsequently tested negative and were allowed to play in the game.


It’s not as if this is news. An August study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed a 100% chance of a false negative the day after COVID-19 exposure and a 67% of a false negative on the fourth day. Even after subjects began exhibiting symptoms, there was a 38% false negative rate.

There are tests that turn around the results more quickly that would help eliminate that lag time between the positive sample being taken and the positive result being read. But those tests have the opposite problem. They’re prone to false positives, something the NFL fears could throw competitive balance out of whack by holding players out of games on Sundays that are not actually positive.

It appears that the risk of on-field transmission is fairly low. Humphrey’s positive case did not result in a significant outbreak for either the Steelers or Ravens to this point (it’s not clear and probably won’t be if McDonald’s case and the positive test of a Steelers staff member are related to Humphrey’s.) There has not been a proven case of on-field COVID-19 transmission, though with the current level of community spread, it is very hard to prove.

More troubling is the fact that McDonald flew with the Steelers to Dallas, likely resulting in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being held out of practice this week after being deemed a close contact of McDonald.

Unless the NFL makes changes to its testing protocols in order to provide more immediate day-of-game testing, cases like Humphrey and McDonald should be expected to continue, and perhaps increase as the level of community spread is increasing, as well.

Steelers

Steelers Own NFL’s Top Scoring Defense after Week 11

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL after the games of Week 11 have all been completed.

After giving up just three points in Sunday’s dominant performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers’ defense has allowed 174 points in 10 games, for a league-best 17.4 points per game. 

The Los Angeles Rams have the league’s second-best unit and saw their points per game figure rise to 19.2 points per game after giving up 24 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.

The Steelers’ Week 12 matchup on Thursday will be a battle of top defenses, as division rival Baltimore is ranked third in the league with 19.5 points per game allowed.

From a yardage standpoint, the Steelers are fifth, having allowed 306.9 yards per game. They’re this in passing yards against per game (203.5) and seventh in rushing yards against per game (103.4).

Here are the top 10 scoring defenses after Week 11:

Pittsburgh Steelers 17.4
Los Angeles Rams 19.2
Baltimore Ravnes 19.5
Miami Dolphins 20.2
Indianapolis Colts 20.8
Chicago Bears 20.9
Kansas City Chiefs 21.4
New Orleans Saints 22.2
Washington Football Team 22.7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23.0

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Steelers

How Have Previous 10-0 Teams Fared?

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The Steelers are 10-0 after Sunday’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, extending their best start in team history and accomplishing a feat that’s been done just 17 times in NFL history.

The first 10-0 team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went on to win all 14 regular season games and the Super Bowl, a season that still stands alone in NFL history as the lone unblemished campaign.

The 2007 New England Patriots also went on to finish an unbeaten regular season, going 16-0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

What has happened to the other 16 squads that started out with wins in their first 10 games?

All 16 made the postseason and did so as a division winner.

Twelve won an 11th game and kept the winning streak alive, with just four falling to 10-1.

Ten advanced all the way to the Super Bowl, and six have won it.

In 1990 and 2009, there were multiple 10-0 teams, with one eliminating the other in the playoffs. At least the Steelers don’t have to worry about that this year.

Here’s a breakdown of how all the 10-0 teams finished their seasons:

1972 Miami Dolphins
Game 11: 31-10 win over St. Louis Cardinals
Finished regular season 14-0
Won Super Bowl VII

1975 Minnesota Vikings
Game 11: 30-31 loss at Washington Redskins
Finished regular season 12-2
Lost in Divisional Playoffs

1984 Miami Dolphins
Game 11: 28-34 loss at San Diego Chargers
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in Super Bowl XIX

1985 Chicago Bears
Game 11: 44-0 win at Dallas Cowboys
Finished regular season: 15-1
Won Super Bowl XX

1990 New York Giants
Game 11: 20-0 win over Detroit Lions
Finished regular season: 13-3
Won Super Bowl XXV

1990 San Francisco 49ers
Game 11: 17-28 loss to Los Angeles Rams
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in NFC Championship Game

1991 Washington Redskins
Game 11: 56-17 win over Atlanta Falcons
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXVI

1998 Denver Broncos
Game 11: 40-14 win at Kansas City Chiefs
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXXIII

2005 Indianapolis Colts
Game 11: 26-18 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in Divisional Playoff to Pittsburgh Steelers

2007 New England Patriots
Game 11: 31-28 win over Philadelphia Eagles
Finished regular season: 16-0
Lost Super Bowl XLII

2008 Tennessee Titans
Game 11: 24-14 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Finished regular season: 13-3
Lost in Divisional Playoff

2009 Indianapolis Colts
Game 11: 35-27 win at Houston Texans
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost Super Bowl XLIV

2009 New Orleans Saints
Game 11: 38-17 win over New England Patriots
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XLIV

2011 Green Bay Packers
Game 11: 27-15 win at Detroit Lions
Finished regular season: 15-1
Lost in Divisional Playoff

2015 Carolina Panthers
Game 11: 33-14 win at Dallas Cowboys
Finished regular season: 15-1
Lost in Super Bowl 50

2015 New England Patriots
Game 11: 24-30 overtime loss at Denver Broncos
Finished regular season: 12-4
Lost in AFC Championship

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Steelers to Wear Color Rush Uniforms vs. Ravens

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The Steelers will wear their all-black Color Rush uniforms on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced on Monday night.

The team made the decision after getting input from the players and the fanbase. It will be the first time the team has worn the uniforms this season.

“I love them. I really love them,” cornerback Joe Haden said to Steelers.com. “They look sick. And we play well in them. You look good, you feel good, and you play good. I just really love them and am excited we get to wear them.”

“I like those. I think it’s a good change,” added James Conner. “When we have one style of game pants, everyone is so used to seeing us in black and gold at home. When it goes all black, I think it looks solid. It’s like the Dark Knight.”

The Steelers are 5-1 all-time in the uniforms, which were introduced in 2016 in a Christmas Day win over the Baltimore Ravens. This will be the second time they’ve worn the uniform against the Ravens.

The team wore the uniforms twice in 2019, a win over the Miami Dolphins and a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Compared to the Steelers’ usual uniform, the Color Rush getups swap white, italic uniform numbers for block, gold digits and the white, intermediary stripes in the team’s five-striped sleeve design also swap white for gold.

The team’s usual gold pants with a thick black stripe are exchanged for the inverse, black pants with a gold side stripe. The team keeps its usual all-black socks for a head-to-toe black-and-gold look.

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