On Tuesday morning, the Browns announced that head coach Kevin Stefanski, as well as two assistant coaches, Joel Bitonio, and KhaDarel Hodge had all tested positive for COVID-19. They will all isolate for 10 days, meaning that they will be unable to participate in Sunday’s playoff game.
There have been many Browns fans that have argued that the matchup between the Browns and Steelers should be postponed, but this is against the NFL’s policy on postponing games. The NFL said that they would only shift games when they believed that an internal outbreak could spread the virus to the opposing team. Due to the fact that these positives have come on Tuesday, it seems unlikely that the outbreak will be ongoing by Sunday. If the Steelers have players who test positive for COVID-19, which seems possible since the two teams played just two days ago, then the game could be postponed. A postponement wouldn’t help the Browns, as the game would need to be moved back to next Friday, which seems highly unlikely. It would help the Steelers, as a small postponement would allow Joe Haden and Eric Ebron to return from COVID-19.
The Browns announced that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will be the acting head coach on Sunday. In 2016, Priefer was the acting head coach for the Vikings, after Mike Zimmer had emergency eye surgery, so he does have experience coaching a NFL team on gameday. Neither of the assistant coaches who tested positive were the coordinators, so both Alex Van Pelt and Joe Woods will retain their roles and will call plays on Sunday.
The Browns have been struggling with COVID-19 lately, having closed their facility five times in the last 10 days. This was most noticeable in the loss to the Jets, when the Browns were without their top four wide receivers, as well as two linebackers. While the Browns will be without Pro-Bowler OL Joel Bitonio as well as WR KhaDarel Hodge, they will be on track to get CB Denzel Ward, TE Harrison Bryant and FS Andrew Sendejo back from the COVID list.
The difficult task to beat the Steelers will be made even tougher with all of the players and coaches who will be out on Sunday. However, the Browns have made their bed and now they have to lie in it.