NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- The Tennessee Titans were already faced with preparing for the 3-0 Pittsburgh Steelers away from their facility and without a couple of key players. Now they have to adjust to a different game-day schedule, too. And without being able to practice, they've had to prepare virtually.
The NFL announced on Wednesday that Sunday's Titans-Steelers game has been postponed with the possibility of playing on Monday or Tuesday. A total of four Titans players -- including starting nose tackle DaQuan Jones and long-snapper Beau Brinkley -- and five team personnel members tested positive for COVID-19 this week. If the game is moved to Tuesday, it will be the first Tuesday game since Dec. 28, 2010, when the Minnesota Vikings-Philadelphia Eagles matchup was moved due to a blizzard.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said they are attacking preparation for the Steelers just like any other week -- even though they haven't been able to practice.
"I met with the team, asked them questions, tried to engage with them, showed them film of Pittsburgh, went through what I think are the keys to this game," Vrabel said. "Craig [Aukerman] met with them as a special-teams unit; [offensive coordinator] Arthur [Smith] and [linebackers coach] Shane [Bowen] and myself met with the units. And then they’ll be with their position coaches for a few minutes, and then the players will have a break.
"We’ve worked on short weeks before; we’ve played three games in 13 days. I’m sure the other team that we played before has had a few extra days of practice. And so it’ll be important that the time that we do get to spend practicing, we take advantage of it."
The NFL has banned in-person activities for the Titans, so they won't be able to go on the field for practice. The Titans are taking a virtual approach to film study sessions. The Steelers are one of the NFL's top defensive teams, especially in sacks -- where they have a league-high 15. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Pittsburgh has the league's highest blitz rate (52.8%).
Ryan Tannehill said he is going to spend extra time meeting with his group of pass-catchers to ensure that they are on the same page.
"There will be a lot of communication. Really talking through different looks together on film through Zoom," Tannehill said. "It's not your traditional on-the- field seeing looks. We have to be able to adapt and adjust, communicate those looks through virtual settings. When we are able to get on the field, whenever that may be, we have to make those adjustments on the fly."
The virtual meetings are a good supplement, but the players still have to make sure they are at their best from a conditioning standpoint. Some of the players have home gyms while others are finding ways to make the best of what they have available to them.
Said safety Kevin Byard, "I am making sure that I stay in shape. I have my Peloton bike and I'll get out in my backyard to do some stuff so I can still have my blood flowing and have my conditioning in so when we do play I am good to go."
Although the facility is currently shut down until Saturday, Vrabel said select players who need medical treatment have been approved to enter the building to work with the athletic trainers. Only four players are allowed in a room at a time and they all must wear masks.
Vrabel said that some of the players who have tested positive have experienced flu-like symptoms. But the players who haven't tested positive are in "a strong mental state" and are committed to playing whenever they are asked to.