Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin defended his decision to play tight end, Vance McDonald, in Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys after missing practice days earlier because of an illness, saying he followed NFL protocol.
Tomlin addressed the media on Tuesday after four more players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, were added to the reserve/ COVID-19 list after playing with McDonald, who tested positive on Monday.
“You know, those aren’t decisions that are made by us,” Tomlin said, according to Tribune-Review. “It’s really cut and dry. It’s all in the procedural policy of covid established in New York (league offices) by the NFL.”
He continued: “As long as he is negative and not showing signs of COVID, he’s able to travel, and he was and we did.”
McDonald missed Friday’s practice with an “illness” but traveled to Dallas with the team and played 24 snaps against the Cowboys — 20 on offense and four on special teams. He was tested on Sunday and the results came back positive Monday morning.
“We don’t overanalyze it that way,” Tomlin said. “We utilize all the mechanisms at our disposal to minimize the potential of interaction. We’re all masked up. We’re all exercising good personal hygiene and social distancing. We’re doing all the things that we are asked. That’s our mindset regarding it.”
As for the players currently in question, each player will be isolated for five days and will only be allowed to return to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for training after testing negative, meaning the earliest they can return would be Saturday — just one day before the Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals.
Potential for an outbreak or even the absence of a few players would be a devastating blow for the Steelers, who are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.