Schefter: Tuesday's Ravens-Steelers Game 'Still a Go'
Just how fluid can the NFL schedule be? We've seen that put to the test.
After two postponements, the Ravens-Steelers Week 12 matchup is scheduled for Tuesday night at 8 p.m. It will be broadcast nationally on NBC with playoff implications riding for both teams.
There were six more Ravens added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, a day after the second postponement, and more reported positive tests since.
But as of Sunday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the game is "still a go."
"The plans are to still play it," Schefter said. "As hard as it is for some people to imagine that.
"If the league decided to postpone the game, I think the most likely scenario would be moving the game to a potential Week 18 scenario whereby if it had to be played, it could. But there's a chance with Pittsburgh undefeated, that it might not need to be played. … The league is going over these options. We are in an area we've never been before."
Along with Schefter, Fox Sports' Jay Glazer echoed similar confidence that the game will be played as currently scheduled.
"They have every intention right now of playing Tuesday," Glazer said. "I think the only way that game gets moved again or canceled is if there's a separate outbreak."
Glazer reported that the Ravens returned to the team facility for conditioning only Sunday evening and will have a walkthrough on Monday ahead of the game.
Schefter reported this morning, however, that the NFL cancelled the Ravens' practice this morning.
Because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the league has had contingency plans for these kinds of scenarios. Earlier this month, NFL owners unanimously approved to expand the playoff field from 14 to 16 if "meaningful games" cannot be played.
"Essentially, playoff expansion will only come about as a third option in the event the league cannot complete the 256-game season as scheduled within 17 weeks or within 18 weeks, with the 18th week added solely to complete the 256-game schedule prior to postseason play," NFL.com's Nick Shook wrote.
Not to mention, the Steelers are also dealing with players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Pittsburgh placed defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins and running back James Conner on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Scott Has a Message for Steelers Players Upset With Postponed Game
In last week's Late for Work, we saw that Steelers players took to social media to express their frustrations with the NFL's decision to move last Thursday's Thanksgiving game to Sunday. Since then, the game has been postponed again.
Former Ravens and New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott had some strong words for Steelers players in an appearance on ESPN's "Get Up."
"They come off sounding like children," Scott said. "They have to understand and read the temperature of the room. This virus is spreading all over the country and they should feel blessed that they haven't been exposed to it.
"This is one of the best rivalries in all of football and this game has implications as far as the Ravens being able to have the opportunity to go to the playoffs. So you want them to play without about seven of their players, is that what you want?"
Steelers players weren't the only ones to express their frustrations. Joe Kuzma, a writer for SteelCityUnderground.com believes the Steelers are being "unfairly punished" given the scheduling circumstances.
"To recap – the Steelers/Ravens were moved back three days from primetime to an early game, and now an additional two day and back to primetime," Kuzma wrote. "To accommodate the impact these moves have on the rest of the NFL schedule, the league moved next Thursday's scheduled game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Ravens to a 5 p.m. kickoff on Monday night.
"Yes, you read that correctly: not only do the Steelers have to play 2.5 days later, but their scheduled game against the Washington Football Team remains as-is with a Sunday 1pm kickoff time. Aside from all of the other advantages I previously wrote about the Steelers losing, they get to see their division rival play on an additional 24 hours-plus rest!"
It's not like the Ravens gain a distinct advantage from the game being moved back another two days. They're already set to be without numerous starters on both sides of the ball.
In a lot of ways, it also benefits Pittsburgh, which also has players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
"The game hasn't been canceled yet, so at the very least the Steelers get an extra two days to prepare while their rival has a chance to get their outbreak under control," NBC Sports' Mike Deprisco wrote.
Who Will Step Up Against the Steelers?
Heading into Tuesday night's game against the Steelers, the Ravens have felt the full effects of what COVID-19 can do to a team.The "next man up" mentality will be put to the test.
"[T]he Ravens are primed to feature a lineup composed largely of backups and practice squad players," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
Baltimore has been ravaged by positive tests as a total of 18 players have been officially placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list over the past week. That's left many wondering who is going to step up?
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler looked at players who he believes could play key roles on Tuesday.
Robert Griffin III
One of the biggest blows to the Ravens came when Lamar Jackson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. That means Robert Griffin III will get his first start after leading Baltimore to a 28-10 win over the Steelers last season.
"This is a golden chance for Griffin to show his worth as the backup quarterback," Schisler wrote.
Griffin has talked about his desire to become a starting quarterback again. He'll have his chance with Jackson out, but the offense will be less than full strength. Schisler still believes Griffin can do enough to win.
"If Griffin lives up to his reputation as one of the best backups, and the Ravens run game gets going, the Ravens can theoretically win this fight," Schisler added. "A solid performance in which Griffin manages the game and doesn't make big mistakes could be enough if the defense has a stellar performance. That's a lot of big it's, yet you cannot deny the chance that's in front of the Ravens' back of quarterback."
Gus Edwards/Justice Hill
Speaking of the last time the Ravens beat the Steelers, they did it on the ground game led by Griffin, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill.
Edwards has been a key contributor in the Ravens' backfield this season. He should see the biggest role with Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins on the list, but Schisler looked specifically at Hill as a player who could step up.
"Hill has some serious speed and could take the Steelers by surprise," Schisler wrote. "This could be a night where we remember what the Ravens have in Hill. … Hill's speed could make some more plays possible than Edwards rumbling up the gut."
Ben Powers, Bradley Bozeman, … Any Available Lineman
As if the Ravens weren't already short-handed on the offensive line before this week, their depth will be tested against the Steelers.
Four linemen: Patrick Mekari, Matt Skura, D.J. Fluker and Will Holden have been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
"Ben Powers is a viable option at guard," Schisler wrote. "You'd have to think that Bradley Bozeman would move to the center position for the Tuesday night clash. They could put Trystan Colon-Castillo at the center position, though Bozeman would be a better alternative.
"The Ravens are running out of interior offensive linemen. It's hard to see a lineup that doesn't include Powers. Really any of the offensive linemen the Ravens have at their disposal could go on this list. It's a whatever works kind of deal. Ben Bredeson, you may get a shot as well."
"The Ravens are scary thin here right now," Zrebiec added. "You need to dress eight offensive linemen to get two extra game-day roster spots and the Ravens might struggle to scrap together a healthy eight."
Zrebiec mentioned that the good news is Fluker could be cleared to play by Tuesday. Rookie Tyre Phillips could also return after being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
NFL Considering 'Local Bubbles' for Playoffs
After the NBA and NHL successfully ended their seasons in bubbles, the NFL could follow.
"The league is now considering its most dramatic action yet to prevent such situations in the postseason," NFL.com's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported. "NFL officials are actively discussing creating 'local bubbles' for the 14 or 16 teams that make the playoffs – isolating all personnel in hotels except to go to and from the team facility and strictly enforcing limitations on who is permitted inside to interact with players, coaches or support staff."
According to Rapoport and Pelissero, the local bubbles would isolate personnel to hotels except back and forth to team facilities. While no decision has been made, it's an option the league could consider as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
"Two important elements to consider on the local bubbles: One, it'd take at least five to seven days to establish the bubbles; and, two, with teams clustered around the block, the plan would likely backfire badly if the virus somehow got in one of the bubbles (I had one person describe that scenario as throwing a match on a dry haystack)," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote.