Mike Tomlin, during his weekly press conference, was asked significantly more questions about COVID-19 than the Steelers' next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals. The questions regarding the virus were justifiable, considering that Pittsburgh had placed four players -- including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger -- on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list just hours earlier.
Tomlin, who has guided the Steelers to an 8-0 start, defended his team's travel policies after allowing tight end Vance McDonald, who is currently on the COVID list after testing positive for the virus, to travel with the team to Dallas after missing practice time with an illness. Roethlisberger, linebacker Vince Williams, lineman Jerald Hawkins and running back Jaylen Samuels were added to the team's COVID list due to "high risk" contact with McDonald, who has already been ruled out of Sunday's game.
"It's really cut and dry," Tomlin said of the team's decision to allow McDonald to travel with the team, via Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. "It's all in the procedural policy of COVID established in New York by the NFL. As long as (McDonald) is negative and not showing signs of COVID, he's able to travel, and he was and we did. We don't overanalyze it that way.
"We utilize all the mechanisms at our disposal to minimize the potential of interaction. We're all masked up. We're all exercising good personal hygiene and social distancing. We're doing all the things that we are asked."
Tomlin said McDonald's COVID test was administered last Sunday, and the results were received either on Sunday night or Monday morning. Tomlin, who is less than a week removed from being fined $100,000 (the Steelers were fined an additional $250,000) for violating the league's COVID protocols during Pittsburgh's Week 8 win over Baltimore, was asked if masks are worn during team flights.
"One hundred percent of the time," Tomlin said.
Given the team's current COVID situation, the Steelers will hold virtual-only meetings this week in preparation for Sunday's game against the Bengals. Pittsburgh will also rotate when players can come in for workouts and other physical things that need taken care of prior to Sunday's game. As it relates to Roethlisberger, Samuels, Williams and Hawkins, Tomlin said that he expects to have each player for Sunday's game as long as they test negative for the virus.
Roethlisberger, who has self-reported that he has tested negative for for the virus, will have to continue to test negative before he would be cleared to take part in the team's Saturday walk-through. He has a 25-7 lifetime record against the Bengals. If Roethlisberger can't play, he will be replaced by either Mason Rudolph or Joshua Dobbs. Tomlin said that Rudolph, who went 5-3 as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback in 2019, will get the bulk of the work this week.
"I'm not opposed to playing anybody that increases our chances of winning," Tomlin said. "Based on what we are looking at."