“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” the league said in a statement.
The Steelers’ following game, against the Washington Football Team in Pittsburgh, was pushed back a day to Monday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m. and is slated to air on Fox. The Ravens’ following game, against the Dallas Cowboys in Baltimore, was pushed back for a second time and now is set for Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time on Fox, NFL Network and Amazon Prime.
The playing of the Ravens-Steelers game Wednesday is pending further coronavirus testing results. Ravens players were on board with the game being played Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the situation, after some players earlier had expressed concerns.
“That’s resolved,” that person said.
According to that person, some Ravens players were eager to play Wednesday. Others were wary, as much because of issues related to conditioning and inactivity as to coronavirus fears, the person said. The league and the NFL Players Association worked cooperatively during the process, and the medical experts involved wanted to see the game pushed back until Wednesday, according to that person.
The Steelers-Washington game now is part of a doubleheader next Monday. The regularly scheduled game next Monday has the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Buffalo Bills. With the 49ers moving their next two home games to Glendale, Ariz., after being displaced by new coronavirus-related restrictions imposed Saturday by Santa Clara County, next Monday’s NFL doubleheader features a rescheduled game and a relocated team playing a home game away from home.
First, the NFL must get the Ravens-Steelers game played. The game originally was scheduled to be played Thanksgiving night but was delayed by the league to Sunday afternoon, then to Tuesday night.
If the game is played Wednesday, it would be the second NFL game played on a Wednesday in 72 years. The 2012 NFL season opener between the Cowboys and New York Giants was played on a Wednesday to avoid a conflict the following night with President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. The season-opening game usually is played on a Thursday. Before that, the NFL last played a Wednesday game in 1948.
The scheduling quirks are becoming commonplace in this pandemic-affected 2020 season. The NFL staged its second Tuesday game in 74 years because of a coronavirus outbreak on the Tennessee Titans, who hosted the Bills on Oct. 13.
The Ravens-Cowboys game would be the second Tuesday game of the season. It originally was scheduled for this Thursday night, then was moved back to Monday and now to Tuesday.
With a Friday game scheduled on Christmas, the NFL is in line to play games this season on all seven days of the week.
The afternoon kickoff for Wednesday’s game resulted from NBC having its broadcast of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting in prime time, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
“As we continue to follow the advice of the NFL’s health experts, as well as the Ravens’ medical professionals, we are preparing for our game against the Steelers,” the Ravens said in a statement.
The Ravens said they held “a safely distanced” walk-through practice and conditioning session Monday evening at their training facility in Owings Mills, Md. Players did not enter the locker room or trainers’ room, the Ravens said. The team said it intends to have another walk-through Tuesday and then will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday evening.
Baltimore was given approval by the league to practice Monday after one player tested positive in the latest round of daily coronavirus testing. That player is on the injured reserve list and was not in contact with other players, according to a person familiar with the testing results.
The NFL took those results as an encouraging sign that the outbreak on the Ravens is easing and the game against the Steelers can be safely played, according to a person familiar with the league’s planning.
Approximately 16 Ravens players, including star quarterback Lamar Jackson, and a significant number of staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days. Jackson’s positive test was confirmed last week by a person familiar with the result. Robert Griffin III is expected to start at quarterback Wednesday.
An estimated 12 or 13 players now on the Ravens’ covid-19 reserve list are expected to be unavailable for Wednesday’s game. That list is for players who test positive for the coronavirus and those determined through contact tracing to have been exposed to it. The Ravens activated some players from the list Monday while adding others to it. Running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins are expected to be activated and available to play Wednesday, according to one person familiar with the situation, and would not have been able to play Tuesday.
If the Ravens-Steelers game cannot be played Wednesday, the NFL could be forced to extend its regular season by a week. The Ravens and Steelers already have had their bye weeks, meaning there is no room for the game to be added later on the current schedule. League officials have said they will add an 18th week to the season only if all games cannot be played in the 17-week framework.