This week the Cleveland Browns have had a new COVID-19 issue emerge on at least three different days. But on Saturday—on the eve of the Steelers-Browns season-finale—the Pittsburgh Steelers had a COVID-19 ‘situation’ emerge with starting cornerback Joe Haden, and according to the ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler, the team is not planning to play him on Sunday.
Steelers corner Joe Haden has been flagged for a Covid-19 situation, and though not finalized, the Steelers are planning to play without him vs. Cleveland, per source.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 2, 2021
Steelers’ Joe Haden: ‘Pissed and Sad’
Haden sent out a tweet indicating that he was “pissed and sad” at the same time.
I’m so pissed and sad at the same time….. stay safe out here
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) January 2, 2021
Shortly afterwards, Dan Graziano, NFL Insider for ESPN, reported that Haden has tested positive for the virus, with his colleague Brooke Pryor noting that Haden will now likely miss not only Sunday’s game against the Browns, but also the team’s first postseason game.
Joe Haden has tested positive for COVID-19 and won't play tomorrow, source told @DanGrazianoESPN.
Updated COVID-19 protocols mandate a player who tests positive must isolate for min of 10 days, even if asymptomatic — meaning Haden will likely be out for first round of playoffs https://t.co/aY3uJVvZhK
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 2, 2021
Making matters worse, Pryor indicates that the Steelers have yet to finish the contract tracing surrounding Haden, so any close contacts will need to isolate and miss practice time, not to mention Sunday’s game.
Contact tracing with Joe Haden testing positive is the next concern for the Steelers. Close contacts would have to isolate and miss practice time, but could still be available for playoffs.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 2, 2021
Certainly, Joe Haden has had what can be described as an eventful past few months—and not in a good way. He suffered a concussion during the loss to Washington on December 7th and missed the team’s following contest, a 26-15 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
On November 27th, he was involved in a car wreck, one in which his black Rolls-Royce suffered substantial damage to the passenger side.
With Haden now out, it means at least seven Steelers starters will not play against the Browns. Early in the week, head coach Mike Tomlin decided that backup quarterback Mason Rudolph would start in place of Ben Roethlisberger. Then he added T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey to the list of players who would not suit up on Sunday. Finally, on Friday, placekicker Chris Boswell and safety Terrell Edmunds were ruled out due to groin and shoulder injuries, respectively.
Browns Facing Ongoing COVID-19 Challenges Too
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns are facing their own COVID-19 issues. On Saturday morning, the team announced that a coach has tested positive for the virus, which has prompted yet another round of contract tracing on the part of the Browns.
That makes two Browns coaches who have recently tested positive. According to Pro Football Talk, one of those two coaches is Browns receivers coach Chad O’Shea, who will reportedly be replaced on the field by Browns Chief of Staff Callie Brownson. In November, Brownson became the first woman to serve as a primary position coach during an NFL game when she coached Cleveland’s tight ends against Jacksonville, which tight ends coach Drew Petzing missed because of the birth of his first child.
The identity of the other Browns coach to test positive has not yet been revealed. Meanwhile, Cleveland currently has a total of six roster players on its Reserve/COVID-19 list, as well as two practice squad players.
The Browns have had five players who have reportedly tested positive for the virus this week: cornerback Denzel Ward, linebacker B.J. Goodson, linebacker Malcolm Smith, safety Andrew Sendejo and tight end Harrison Bryant.
Cleveland (10-5) controls its own playoff destiny but needs to beat the Steelers (12-3) to ensure that it makes the postseason. It would be Cleveland’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2002, when the Browns were bounced out of the playoffs by the Steelers, after quarterback Tommy Maddox engineered a dramatic 36-33 come-from-behind victory.
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