According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, the Pittsburgh Steelers are practicing on Sunday in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. That would be prudent, because it now seems likely that the Ravens-Steelers game will be played (as rescheduled, albeit with no fans), unless the teams continue to throw positive tests in the next 24 hours or so.
After all, if Denver can host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday with all four of its quarterbacks unavailable, the Ravens can take on the Steelers with just six offensive linemen and three defensive linemen (including practice squad players).
In fact, Adam Schefter of ESPN notes that the league addressed this very issue in a memo to all 32 teams on October 13th. That memo states that “Medical considerations and government directives will be paramount in determining when a game should be postponed…. Games will not be postponed or rescheduled simply to avoid roster issues caused by injury or illness affecting multiple players, even within a position group.”
Never mind the fact that the Ravens (and Broncos) are now reportedly under investigation by the league for violation of COVID-19 protocols, and could be in line to face discipline, financial and otherwise.
Saints + Broncos – All of Denver’s QBs
In case you haven’t heard, on Saturday Denver had all four of its quarterbacks ruled out for Sunday because backup QB Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 and, as Pro Football Talk put it, “all of the Broncos’ other quarterbacks [were] in close contact with Driskel, with no one wearing masks.”
Denver reportedly asked the league if it would allow one of its offensive quality control coaches to suit up and play quarterback—either Justin Rascati or Rob Calabrese—but that request was denied.
So the Broncos are reportedly planning to start rookie practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback. Hinton did begin his college career at Wake Forest as a quarterback before moving to receiver. As such, his college passing numbers include 1,504 passing yards, with eight TDs and seven INTs. But Sunday’s start vs. the Saints will be his first appearance in an NFL game—at any position.
Baltimore Ravens COVID-19 Update
Denver’s situation suggests that the NFL is likely to have the Ravens-Steelers game go forward, despite the fact that Baltimore has 20 players on its Reserve/COVID-19 list and 10 staffers who have tested positive for the virus.
The Ravens are certainly in a lot better shape than the Broncos in terms of the quarterback position. Baltimore has Robert Griffin III —the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft—available to start at QB. The Ravens also have rookie practice squad QB Tyler Huntley (Utah) available for elevation to the active roster.
This isn’t to say that Pittsburgh will go into the game at anything approaching full strength, but at the moment the Steelers have a comparatively few five players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the most notable of which are starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt and No. 1 running back James Conner, the latter of whom has reportedly tested positive for the virus.
The Steelers will also be without at least two assistant coaches on Tuesday night, those being special teams coordinator Danny Smith and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada.
Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges: Where Are You Now?
Pittsburgh fans can only hope that the the Steelers have learned a lesson from Denver’s experience and are now keeping (fourth-string) practice squad quarterback Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges apart from the rest of the team, to help prevent a similar scenario from unfolding in Pittsburgh. The Steelers went 3-3 with Hodges as a starter last year, and would likely remain competitive if the team had to turn to him for a game or two.
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