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
Update, 1:32 p.m: Mike Garafalo of NFL Network is reporting that the Titans have been told to prepare as if this Sunday’s game is on, even. if it means not practicing until Saturday.
#Titans coaches have told players if they have to go without any work until Saturday, have a walkthrough then and play the #Steelers Sunday then that's what they'll have to do. No excuses. https://t.co/itr0rxkNWs
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 29, 2020
Update, 2:55 p.m: Mike Tomlin’s press conference has been rescheduled for 6 p.m.
Update, 3:09 p.m: The NFL is considering moving the game between the Steelers and Tennessee to Monday night in order to give the Titans more time to get testing results back from their contact-trace indicated players and get on the practice field, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
NFL wants to and intends to play the Titans-Steelers game as scheduled Sunday; one of the contingency plans to allow for additional testing and contact tracing to occur would be to move the game to Monday night, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 29, 2020
Update, 3:15 p.m: According to ESPN’s Dan Graizano, 48 individuals have been contact traced to the eight positive-tested Titans players and staffers from their game on Sunday. It’s not clear what percentage of those individuals are players or staff, or are affiliated with the Titans or Minnesota Vikings, but it could obviously represent a significant portion of the Titans roster if it is mostly Tennessee players.
Per sources, Vikings won’t be back in their facility until all of their test results are in. League contact tracing has identified 48 close contacts with the eight people who tested positive in Tennessee. Contingency/rescheduling plans are being discussed, obviously.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) September 29, 2020
Stay with Steelers Now with more on this developing story.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 10/30/20
Steelers linebacker TJ Watt leads the defense during their final practice before plating the divisional rival Ravens. Running back James Conner also works on his burst.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers ‘Next Man Up’ Mentality Paying Dividends in 2020
The Steelers are 6-0, and while the team has had relatively good health for the season, there have been key injuries that have struck at inopportune times. Most recently, the Steelers lost Devin Bush for the season with a torn ACL.
However, he has not been the only one. Mike Hilton has missed time with a shoulder injury, Diontae Johnson has been nicked up, and Derek Watt has missed multiple games with a hamstring injury. Yet, at all spots, the Steelers have yet to miss a beat.
These are not just minor injuries either. Bush is the glue in the middle of the defense. Johnson is the shifty receiver that makes team fear the Steelers quick passing game. Hilton is the best run defending slot cornerback in the NFL and expands the Steelers’ blitz packages. Even Watt is a fantastic special teamer. Yet, the Steelers continue to chug along like nothing is wrong.
Mike Tomlin talks about the “next man up” mentality every week when it comes to the health of his team. The Steelers work through replacing their injured guys and getting them the replacements up to speed quickly. Even still, this is a mentality that is much easier said than done. Raw talent is hard to replace, especially when these are inexperienced, young players that are stepping in for those key contributors.
However, as the Steelers have shown in the past two weeks, Bush’s injury thus far has yet to be felt. Robert Spillane, a former undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan, has stepped in well. Playing on base downs, Spillane’s physicality and football IQ have been key in his standout performance. He has even shown he has more athleticism than anticipated. His big hit on Derrick Henry on Sunday was just the icing on the cake for a strong two weeks for Spillane.
Ulysees Gilbert III stepped into the other part of Bush’s role, which is sub-packages. Gilbert is now working in that role, and while not tested all that much on Sunday, Gilbert looked rather solid. Most importantly, he has the same speed and rare athleticism for the position that Bush presents.
With Johnson banged up this year, Chase Claypool and James Washington have jumped in at random times to step up in a big way. When Johnson was hurt early in Week 5 against the Eagles, Claypool stepped in and was the unsung hero. Against Cleveland, both Claypool and Washington had a touchdown.
Cam Sutton played a tremendous game in the absence of Hilton against Tennessee. With a near interception and two pass deflections, it was undeniable that Sutton had a strong game. Working as both a slot corner and in his usual dimebacker role, Sutton’s football smarts were on display the entire game. He worked as a deep third safety, yet again as well.
Justin Layne came into the game in those dime package sets as well. With Steven Nelson kicking inside, it was Layne who was tasked with guarding the boundary. In fact, in his limited snaps, Layne held his own. On the final drive by the Titans, Layne was mostly tasked with covering A.J. Brown, and he shut him down. While not targeted, if Layne had been targeted, he would have been in an excellent position to make a play. It was simply clear that Layne’s length was disruptive and an issue.
As for Watt’s injury, the Steelers have used both Trey Edmunds, Jaylen Samuels, and even Henry Mondeaux to replace his production on offense. As lead blockers, both Edmunds and Mondeaux have cleared lanes for goal-line touchdowns. Samuels took over Watt’s wingback role and secured himself a jet sweep on Sunday. It is a position that has been filled by committee, but an effective one at that.
All of that is to say, the season has thrown rolling punches the Steelers way, but they have stayed resilient. All these young guys stepping into bigger roles have played at a high-level. That shows this team buys into the next man up mentality that Tomlin instills in the locker room. This is further proof of Tomlin’s leadership skills to sell this mentality to the locker and get them all to buy-in.
In addition, it is a credit to all the position coaches. They are coaching these guys up during the week to get them ready for the big stage, and so far all of them have come through in a big way. The biggest example of this is when David DeCastro was injured not once, but twice, and Kevin Dotson came into the game with no problems. The Steelers did not miss a beat with Dotson at the helm. Zach Banner tore his ACL and Chuks Okorafor has been fantastic in his absence. Offensive Line Coach Shaun Sarrett deserves a lot of praise to get these guys up to speed. The players are buying into the mentality.
All across the roster from the defense to the offense and even special teams, the Steelers’ backups have filled in well every time they have been asked to do so. That is rare for any NFL team to have in a given season. However, thanks to great leadership from Tomlin, high-level position coaching, and buy-in mentality from the players, the Steelers have overcome injuries with the next man up mentality.
Without the mentality, it is hard to see the Steelers being 6-0 right now. It is the gift that keeps on giving and going forward, it is hard to see it not paying dividends for a talented, but still somewhat young team down the stretch.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 10/29/20
Two of the Steelers deepest units turned up the heat during practice on Thursday, October 29, 2020.
The Steelers receivers and members of the secondary go head-to-head to prepare for matchups with their counterparts on the Ravens.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers