NFL COVID-19 outbreak: Steelers-Titans Week 4 matchup postponed, here’s how it could be rescheduled

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Titans were forced to suspend all in-person club activities due to eight new positive COVID-19 tests. Since they played against the Minnesota Vikings just two days ago, they also were forced to suspend in-person activities as the league attempts to figure out how to weather this potential issue. While everyone is curious how this mini outbreak was started and if the Vikings were affected, the NFL faces another big question: What will happen this upcoming weekend?

Well, we have an answer, sort of, the NFL announced on Wednesday that the Steelers-Titans matchup is officially postponed and could be played Monday or Tuesday. 

The Titans will reportedly be unable to practice until Saturday — which is why their Week 4 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers was in question. Is there a way the league could reschedule this game if it comes down to it? With each team playing just 16 games per season, canceling this game between two undefeated teams would certainly throw a wrench into the AFC playoff picture. CBS Sports NFL editor R.J. White identified a potential scenario in which Steelers-Titans could be rescheduled without additional problems.

The Titans currently have their bye week scheduled for Week 7, while the Steelers’ bye comes in Week 8. However, the Steelers are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7 — who also have a Week 8 bye. In theory, the league could move the Steelers-Titans matchup to Week 7, and the Steelers-Ravens matchup to Week 8 while the Titans and Steelers take this week off and the Ravens’ bye gets moved to Week 7. 

The one caveat we have to account for is that an even number of teams have to be on bye weeks, but even with this potential swap, it should still work out. (Here’s how those bye weeks could look. Week 4: TEN, PIT. Week 7: MIN, JAC, IND, BAL. Week 8: WAS, ARI, HOU, DEN.)

It’s also possible that the Steelers-Titans matchup doesn’t have to be canceled. According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Titans coaches have told players if they have to go without any work until Saturday, have a walkthrough and then play on Sunday, that’s what they’ll have to do. No excuses. 

If the Vikings’ Week 4 game against the Houston Texans is forced to be moved, things could get more complicated. According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Vikings’ COVID-19 tests from Monday morning all came back negative, but due to this development in Tennessee, they were tested again. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports that the Vikings won’t be back in their facility until all of their second test results come back in, and that the league’s contact tracing has identified 48 close contacts with the eight members of the Titans who tested positive. If indeed all tests come back negative for the Vikings, then they could potentially return to their team facilities before Saturday and be ready for their Week 4 matchup with the Texans.

If the game does have to be rescheduled, however, there could be some way to work around these issues, but it would be a bit tougher than rescheduling the Steelers-Titans matchup. My CBS Sports colleague John Breech broke it down.

This is a fluid situation which the NFL is looking to fix quickly. Hopefully they won’t have to cancel any games and resort to rescheduling, but that certainly does appear to be a possibility at this point in time. The Titans are working to confirm the positive tests since the league has already dealt with an abundance of false positives this offseason. Back in August, a total of 77 positive tests for COVID-19 came back to 11 teams. After further review, it was concluded that these were false positive tests, and all of the original tests were rerun with each sample coming back negative for the coronavirus. 

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