In 2020, no team felt the impact of having games rescheduled as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks more than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For 2021, it was announced that there will be no rescheduling of games resulting from a COVID-19 outbreak and teams could face penalties up to and including a forfeit.
To the Steelers, the significance of twice having games rescheduled was simply not subjective. On the contrary, it was extremely tangible and put the Steelers at a competitive disadvantage. It was not the sole reason for their late season struggles after an 11-0 start, but anyone who even attempts to argue that losing both the bye week and the mandated 10-day “long-week” after playing a Thursday game has no grounds to stand on. The Steelers sustained an inordinate number of injuries that were a direct result of playing consecutive games on short weeks which arguably went against the CBA.
Many observers called for a Baltimore Ravens forfeiture when the scheduled game vs. the Steelers on Thanksgiving evening was postponed. And they would have right as the ensuing debacle of “officially” changing the games status was completely contradictory to the “player safety” directive that the NFL supposedly purports.
It would appear that a forfeit in the same situation would be the case in 2021. While this comes a year too late for the Steelers, it’s extremely evident (as a forfeiture would mean that both team’s players would not receive a game check) that this decision is tacitly a directive for players to get vaccinated. In the official memo – there are different protocols in effect for vaccinated and unvaccinated players.
As of the start of camp, the Steelers have one of the highest vaccination rates in the NFL and well above the 85% threshold that enables them to engage in training camp activities without the restrictions that teams which have not must adhere to.
Does it give the Steelers a competitive advantage? While it is yet to be seen if the NFL actually will enforce a forfeit, the fact that they have additional time for Ben Roethlisberger to gauge the scope of abilities brought by Najee Harris is a plus — along with mastering the terminology of new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, as well establishing Kendrick Green to be ready to assume the starting center position alongside new starting guards Kevin Dotson and Trai Turner. As of now, that is a definite win.
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