Should the NFL leave the Ravens-Steelers rematch at 7pm CT Tuesday — its third time slot — the Steelers will not have James Conner for the game. Conner tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).
In addition to the fourth-year running back testing positive, Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith also submitted a positive coronavirus test, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. This, of course, follows the COVID-19 outbreak at the Ravens facility. The game remains on schedule for Tuesday night.
A 2018 Pro Bowler who has played a key role in the Steelers’ first-ever 10-0 start, Conner is a cancer survivor. As of Saturday afternoon, he is not experiencing significant symptoms, Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com notes. This positive test stands to keep Conner out of the Steelers’ Week 13 game — against Washington — as well. Conner, 25, was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. Smith has been the Steelers’ ST coordinator since 2013.
The Steelers are working on a contact-tracing effort, so more players and coaches figure to join Conner and Smith in being unavailable against the Ravens. Pittsburgh placed Stephon Tuitt and two other linemen on its virus list Friday. The Ravens have 15 players on their virus list.
Considering the alternatives to playing this game on Tuesday, the NFL will face a major decision over the next few days. The league has pushed this game back to what looks like its Week 12 fail-safe point. A makeup Week 18 window is believed to be the league’s Plan B, with Plan C being the 16-team playoff bracket that would stem from canceled regular-season games.
On pace for his second 1,000-yard season since taking the reins from Le’Veon Bell in 2018, Conner has totaled 645 rushing yards and five touchdowns this year. Benny Snell‘s 57 carries are second-most on the Steelers. His 3.4 yards-per-carry average is a yard worse than Conner’s.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.