Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

So, we now know the outbreak of COVID-19 cases with the Tennessee Titans is looking like an inside job – as in the Titans largely doing this to themselves.

Not only does it appear the Titans weren’t necessarily taking all precautions prior to their outbreak that started two weeks ago prior to their game against the Vikings. It appears they also broke with league-mandated protocols once the outbreak started. The team continued to practice on its own – in different groups – away from the team facility after being explicitly they could not do so.

The league needs to come down hard on the Titans. In fact, The league needs to hand out punishment that is so harsh that no other team thinks about breaking the COVID-19 protocols again.

The Titans not only put themselves at risk, they put the entire league in jeopardy of not being able to play this season. More important, they put other people at risk with their reckless and selfish behavior. Was an extra practice really going to matter when, as it turned out, they weren’t permitted to play the Steelers anyway?

So now, instead of just affecting their game with the Steelers, they’ve put their next game, against the Buffalo Bills in jeopardy. That game has been moved to Tuesday, assuming the Titans don’t have any more positive tests. As of this writing, they were up to 21 positive tests in the past two weeks.

That’s unacceptable.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to rain fire down on the Titans. Players and coaches should be suspended. Draft picks should be docked. Fines should be levied.

This needs to be treated more harshly than any other penalty given out in NFL history.

But whatever happens, the Titans, or what’s left of them after the suspensions are handed out, should be made to continue playing.

Their reckless behavior has already affected the competitive balance of the league because games had to be rescheduled. Awarding forfeits would only make that worse.

  • If you’re looking for the most harsh penalties ever handed out in sports, look no further than the NFL’s decision to give the city of Cleveland back the Browns franchise in 1999. The people of Cleveland have been paying for that one for the past 20 years.
  • Are NFL officials going to start calling holding penalties at some point this season? They haven’t to this point.

Scoring is way up across the league and the simple reason for it is that officials aren’t calling offensive holding. This season, they have called 1.66 holding penalties per game. That sounds like a lot until you consider it’s a full holding penalty fewer than they called in 2019.

Holding penalties are typically drive killers for offenses. And if they’re not being called, drives can continue.

Add to that the fact defensive pass interference penalties are up slightly from a year ago, and offenses playing on the road don’t have to deal with crowd noise, and it’s not hard to figure out why the league is on a record scoring pace.

This Week’s Picks

Steelers (minus 7) over Eagles: Will the Steelers be rusty after their surprise bye last weekend? Perhaps. But this is a really bad matchup for the Eagles. Philadelphia’s offensive line has been crushed by injuries. And their receiving corps isn’t in much better shape. Washington had eight sacks against the Eagles in Week 1. And the Steelers’ pass rush is better. Take the Steelers, 26-17

Ravens (plus 13) over Bengals: Lamar Jackson is dealing with some kind of knee issue. It forced him to miss two days of practice this week, which is concerning since he’s the Ravens’ leading rusher. This might be a good game for the Ravens to try to get Mark Ingram or JK Dobbins involved more as runners. And Baltimore’s defense will make things tough on young Joe Burrow. Take the Ravens, 31-17

Colts (pick) over Browns: Every time the Browns win more than two games in a row, they’re going to the Super Bowl. But the Colts have had the NFL’s stingiest defense over the first four weeks of the season. And the Colts should be capable of taking advantage of the middle of the field, where the Browns are weak on defense. Take the Colts, 20-17

Rams (minus 7) over Washington: The Washington franchise made a change at quarterback, going to turnover machine Kyle Allen – he of the 16 interceptions and 13 fumbles in 13 starts last season with Carolina – at quarterback. This isn’t going to end well. Take the Rams, 27-14

Cardinals (minus 7) over Jets: On the subject of quarterback changes, Joe Flacco will get the start for the Jets in place of injured Sam Darnold, giving bettors the gift of being able to bet against Flacco one last time. Take the Cardinals, 26-10

Last Week: 2-2-1. Overall: 10-8-2

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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