UNITY TWP., Pa. —The Steelers had other reasons for giving the team three consecutive days off after the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs last Friday, as the team has been dealing with the unexpected death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on Sunday.
But the break has come at a good time for other reasons, as the beat-up Steelers are expecting significantly better participation as they re-take the fields at St. Vincent College for practice on Tuesday.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden dodged a major injury after being carted off the practice field last week and missing the team’s first preseason game on Friday.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday morning that Haden will not participate in the team’s re-scheduled practice session, but only has a contusion, and not a more serious ailment.
Tomlin expects a more healthy overall lineup to take to Chuck Noll field on Tuesday, as he listed just Haden, offensive linemen David DeCastro (soreness, day-to-day) and (Maurkice Pouncey (undisclosed) and reserve tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson (soft tissue injury, undetermined) as unlikely participants.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are working there way back onto the grass today,” Tomlin said. “A lot of the guys that have missed time will at least be working at a partial capacity today.”
Most of the Steelers’ starting lineup was held out of the preseason opener against Tampa Bay last Friday, but only some of those absences were due to injury, with Tomlin choosing to rest most of his veterans.
James Conner, Bud Dupree, Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward, Vance McDonald, Donte Moncrief, Steven Nelson, Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Stephon Tuitt were given the night off last Friday.
Sean Davis (finger) and T.J. Watt (hamstring) have been practicing, but did not play.
Brian Allen (undisclosed), Artie Burns (groin), Diontae Johnson (groin), Sutton Smith (undisclosed) and Vince Williams (hamstring) could return to practice on Tuesday after missing the game and at least some time at practice last week.
Of course, it might not be the best day for players with recent lower-body injuries to return to work. An early drizzle is expected to turn into isolated thunderstorms later in the day.
Titans Shut Down Practice after Multiple Positive COVID-19 Tests
The Tennessee Titans have shut down their practices this week after multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the organization, the team announced on Tuesday in advance of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers scheduled for this Sunday in Nashville.
The Titans had three new player positives and five new staff positives on Tuesday, and both the Titans, and their opponents from Sunday the Minnesota Vikings, have shut down practices for the week, according to a report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
The #Titans had three new player positives and five new personnel positives for COVID-19, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. Both Titans and Vikings, who hosted them Sunday, will suspend in person club activities starting today.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 29, 2020
“Out of an abundance of caution, the organization has decided to work remotely today as we follow NFL protocols related to the COVID-19 virus,” the Titans said in a statement to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “Several tests have come back positive and we are working through the process of confirming them. We will have more information [Wednesday].”
After multiple positive COVID tests in their organization , the Titans are halting in-person work today and made this announcement: pic.twitter.com/2LDjIBgyor
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 29, 2020
According to a report ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the NFL is shutting down the Titans’ entire week of practice until Saturday, which would obviously put the status of Sunday’s game in jeopardy.
A league source just texted me: "We are shutting Tennessee down until Saturday"
That means no Titans coaches or players can be in the building.
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) September 29, 2020
Update, 10:31 a.m: The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement later on Tuesday morning:
“On Tuesday morning, the Titans COVID testing results returned three new player positives and five new personnel positives. The Titans will suspend in-person club activities starting today. Likewise, the Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday, will also suspend in-person club activities. Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA, including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments. All decisions will be made with health and safety as our primary consideration. We will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.”
Update, 10:47 a.m: Kevin Seifert of ESPN has confirmed that the tests are not false positives.
Unfortunately, I can confirm, via a league source, that all of these COVID-19 tests have been CONFIRMED positive. The NFL has completed the protocol that would have determined if any were false positive. They weren't.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 29, 2020
Update, 11:43 a.m: The Steelers have postponed Mike Tomlin’s press conference, which was scheduled for noon.
Update, 11:50 a.m: Betting on the Steelers-Titans game has been taken off the board in several casinos, including Parx in Pennsylvania.
The betting market has certainly reacted to news of the Tennessee Titans' positive COVID tests:https://t.co/wD6PYXTuP8
— PJ Walsh (@PJWalsh24) September 29, 2020
Update, 11:57 a.m: Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten has released the following statement:
“We have been in contact with the NFL regarding the positive COVID-19 tests with the Tennessee Titans. We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday’s game until we are informed otherwise.
“We will provide more information when it becomes available.”
Update, 12:01 p.m: Albert Breer of NFL Network is reporting that Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen tested positive last week and is not one of the eight positive cases announced by the team on Tuesday.
Some more on the NFL's first COVID-19 outbreak.
• Titans OLB coach Shane Bowen tested positive late last week. His case is NOT one of 8 positives that came up today (5 personnel, 3 players).
• The positives came back this AM. Lab re-ran samples, all came up positive again.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 29, 2020
Stay with Steelers Now with more on this developing story.
Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva Explains His Decision to Honor Alwyn Cashe
Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva explains why decided to honor deceased US Army sergeant Alwyn Cashe on his teammate instead of joining the rest of team in honoring police shooting victim Antwon Rose, Jr via Zoom with members of the media on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020.
The Steelers had previously announced that the entire team would be honoring Rose, but Villanueva decided to change his mind and honor Cashe. He spoke with Mike Tomlin about that decision, but team captains Cameron Heyward and Ben Roethlisberger said they were surprised by Villanueva’s decision.
Steelers Finish Week 3 in First Place in AFC North
It’s early in the season, but being alone in first place can never be a bad things, and that’s where the Steelers find themselves.
The Steelers started the season 3-0 with Sunday’s 28-21 victory over the Houston Texans and Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens dropped a 34-20 decision to the Kansas City Chiefs. With the loss, the Ravens fell to 2-1, leaving the Steelers alone at the top of the division.
The Steelers are 3-0 for the first time since 2010, and are at the top of the division for the first time in a while. The last time the Steelers were atop the AFC North was after the end of Week 15 in the 2018 season.
The Ravens will fall into a second-place tie with the Cleveland Browns at 2-1. The Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2-1.
The Steelers will put their first-place standing and unbeaten record on the line on Sunday against a team in an identical scenario: the 3-0 Tennessee Titans, which lead the AFC North at 3-0.