The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are slated to play one another in the regular season finale in Week 17 at FirstEnergy Stadium this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The game means little for the visiting Steelers, considering they have clinched the AFC North and are likely to be the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoff Picture, but it is a win-and-in situation for the Browns.
With the Browns coming off a brutal loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in Week 16, a game where they were without almost all of their wide receivers due to COVID-19 issues, the Browns’ issues surrounding the global pandemic are not over.
In fact, some might suggest they are getting worse. For a breakdown of where the Browns have been, and what they still face in the coming days, this is from the Associated Press:
The Cleveland Browns have two more positive COVID-19 cases — another player and a staff member — as they prepare for Sunday’s finale against the Steelers.
The team closed its facility for several hours Wednesday after being informed of the test results. The Browns have not yet announced the identity of the player or added him to their COVID-19 reserve list.
The Browns already have nine players on the list, including their top four wide receivers. Those players and others are eligible to return Thursday as long as they test negative.
On Tuesday, safeties Andrew Sendejo, Karl Joseph and tight end Harrison Bryant were added to the list.
Cleveland (10-5) can make the playoffs for the first time since 2002 with a win over Pittsburgh (12-3) on Sunday.
Sendejo will miss the game, as will starting linebacker B.J. Goodson; they have to be out 10 days after testing positive.
It should be noted the Browns were permitted to practice Wednesday by the NFL after contact tracing, which is a good sign, and the league announced they plan on having the game on schedule.
Then again, what do you expect them to say?
What might be the most unlikely aspect of this news is how it seems the Steelers have been involuntarily involved in so many situations surrounding COVID-19. After the Tennessee Titans’ outbreak moved their bye week, fans were left frustrated and agitated when the Baltimore Ravens’ outbreak equated in the team playing three games in twelve days.
While the hope is the NFL’s contact tracing and protocols will stop an outbreak before it starts, the league has to be extremely concerned with this situation. Why? Where are you going to put the game if it needed to be moved? Would you move it to Monday, telling the playoff-bound Steelers they would have to prepare on a short week for a postseason game? Talk about unfair. The thought of creating a Week 18 is long gone at this point. You have to wonder if the NFL would tell the Browns they have to find a way to field a team, no matter what.
The hope is the league doesn’t have to worry about this and the Browns’ issues don’t turn into an outbreak. Nonetheless, if an outbreak does occur it would be an absolute nightmare for the NFL.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Browns in Week 17.