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Despite ill Ravens, Steelers still on

The Associated Press

The Thanksgiving night game between the Ravens and Steelers has been switched to Sunday afternoon because of coronavirus issues with Baltimore.

The NFL officially announced the move Wednesday, placing the game at 1:15 p.m. on NBC. Previously, it was scheduled for NBC’s prime-time telecast on Thanksgiving Day.

Baltimore placed outside linebacker Pernell McPhee on the reserve/COVID-19, joining running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. The Ravens also have been doing team work virtually.

Some media outlets were reporting Thursday night that quarterback Lamar Jackson had tested positive for the virus, but neither the Ravens nor the NFL were saying if that would affect the playing of the game Sunday.

The Ravens said late Wednesday they had disciplined a staff member, reportedly a strength coach, for not obeying league protocols.

“We appreciate the NFL for its diligence in working closely with us to ensure the well-being of players, coaches and staff from both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers organizations,” the Ravens said in a statement.

“Protecting the health and safety of each team, in addition to our communities at large, is of utmost importance. We will continue to follow guidance from the NFL and its medical experts, as we focus on safely resuming preparations for Sunday’s game.”

The game — assuming it is played on Sunday — means the Ravens will trade one short week for another. They are scheduled to play Dallas on Thursday, Dec. 3.

There will be no fans allowed for the Ravens game.

This isn’t the first time the Steelers have been forced to adjust their schedule because of COVID-19 issues with opponents. Their trip to Nashville on Oct. 4 to face the Titans turned into an unexpected bye week when Tennessee was hit with an outbreak.

The tweak forced the Steelers to play 13 straight weeks to end the regular season. They had hoped for at least a mini-break by playing on Thanksgiving — the franchise’s first-ever home game in Pittsburgh on the holiday — and then getting the weekend off before starting the home stretch.

The silver lining is that some injured players get extra days to rest. Star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster gets a few more days for the right leg he tweaked during a freak play in Jacksonville — when he twisted his leg after stepping on a penalty flag — to get ready for the Ravens.

Coach Mike Tomlin has praised his team’s ability to stay light on its feet in adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of their success. The Steelers were hit with their own COVID-19 scare earlier this month when tight end Vance McDonald tested positive following a victory over Dallas, forcing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a handful of teammates to self-quarantine before facing the Bengals. Roethlisberger ended up playing and throwing four touchdowns in an easy victory.

Roethlisberger shrugged on Tuesday when asked if it was right for the Steelers to face the Ravens without Baltimore being able to practice as a precaution.

“This is just an unusual year when it comes to everything we have to do, that everyone has to do. We saw it early, obviously, with the Titans game, byes, all these kinds of things,” he said.

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