Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expressed frustration over a schedule tweak due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has hit the Tennessee Titans.
After two more Titans players tested positive Wednesday, there have now been at least 20 confirmed infections since last Monday of Tennessee players and staff. The outbreak forced the postponement of the Week 4 scheduled game between the Steelers and the Titans in Nashville.
The shift moved up the Steelers' bye week, which had originally been scheduled for Week 8. That means that Pittsburgh will now be forced to play 13 consecutive weeks in the regular season. That number could extend, if the team qualifies for the postseason and doesn't qualify for a first-round bye, which only the top seed in each conference earns.
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field on September 20, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Joe Sargent, Getty Images)
The NFL and NFL Players Association are investigating whether the Titans broke the league's COVID-19 protocols. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo Monday that "Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams" could result in forfeits for the offending party.
Roethlisberger, however, doesn't foresee that applying to the rescheduled game against the Titans.
"I don’t think they will consider forfeiting our game (against the Titans), and of course, we got the short end of the stick," Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday morning.
Pittsburgh is now scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens on Week 8, when the Steelers and Ravens' bye had originally been set. The Steelers and Titans are scheduled to make up their postponed game on Week 7.
Roethlisberger has led Pittsburgh to a 4-0 start in his return from an elbow injury that knocked him out of the 2019 season.
"Well, the league already tried to slow it down, so I guess I’m going to start back over from scratch and hope this week I didn’t take too many steps backward," Roethlisberger said of trying to set benchmarks in his recovery. "Just try and see how it goes this week, I guess."
Roethlisberger's remarks struck a markedly different tone from those of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who said he'd prepare his team to play whenever games are scheduled.
"We are moving within our normal rhythm, but we acknowledge when we come in here day-to-day that we could have to adjust," Tomlin said Tuesday. "And when we have to, we do, and we will. But, we won’t spend a lot of time putting together proposals and counter proposals and contingency plans based on the ball that may or may not drop. That’s just not prudent use of time from our perspective."
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