On Saturday morning the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. That staffer has self-quarantined and the team is working to complete the necessary contact tracing, according to the club’s Director of Communications, Burt Lauten.
Per Brooke Pryor of ESPN, the Steelers are still on track to travel to Dallas today to play the Cowboys on Sunday.
It’s the first case of COVID-19 in the organization since the summer, when Pittsburgh had a total four players on its COVID-19 list at one time or another. Running back Jaylen Samuels Jr. admitted that he tested positive for the virus after spending several weeks on the COVID-19 list in August.
Three other players—third-year wide receiver James Washington, second-year cornerback Justin Layne, and defensive back Arrion Springs (the latter no longer on the team)—were on the COVID-19 list this summer, though it’s not clear whether any of them actually tested positive.
But one player—first-year offensive lineman Jarron Jones, currently on the practice squad—nearly lost his dad to the virus. In July, Jones related how his father, a nurse, spent 47 days in the hospital, saying, “It was very scary, especially when he got to the hospital. He had to be put on a ventilator when he was first admitted. You look up the percentage of how many people get on the ventilator, how many make it….”
Who Will Play Quarterback for the Cowboys?
Meanwhile, on Saturday the Cowboys finally announced a starting quarterback for the game against the Steelers. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk put it: “On Sunday, the Steelers will be eating Garrett Gilbert.”
Gilbert won out in a weeklong battle against Cooper Rush, both having been plucked off of the practice squads of other teams in the wake of Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury. The Cowboys were reluctant to give rookie seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci (James Madison University) a second NFL start after he floundered in a 23-9 loss to the Eagles.
“I think that it was a lot for him…. I think we certainly as a team paid the price to have him come in under those circumstances … It was frankly more than he could handle,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during a radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan (Dallas) on Tuesday.
So now Dallas will try Gilbert, 29, while former Cincinnati Bengals starter Andy Dalton remains unavailable due to being in both the COVID-19 and concussion protocols.
Gilbert is a former sixth-round pick of the then-St. Louis Rams (SMU), who has bounced around the league since he was drafted in 2014, having spent time with the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers.
Gilbert has appeared in six career games, five with the Browns and one with the Panthers. During those games he completed a total of 2 of 6 passes for 40 yards. He was signed off of Cleveland’s practice squad on October 12th.
If Gilbert falters against the Steelers, the Cowboys could turn to Rush, assuming he is elevated from the practice squad for Sunday’s game. Otherwise Dallas would have to turn back to DiNucci.
Rush was with the Cowboys between 2017-19, but he was just 1 of 3 for two yards during the five games in which he appeared. He was a member of the New York Giants in the early part of the season but the Cowboys plucked him off New York’s practice squad after Dalton was injured against Washington on October 25th.