The Pittsburgh Steelers did what any and every team has done when it wins a division title: celebrate.
The problem, though, is the Steelers did so as a group without masks, in what would appear to be a violation of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol. Notable TikTok dancer and pass-catcher JuJu Smith-Schuster was at the center of celebratory group dances in the locker room following Pittsburgh’s 28-24 win over Indianapolis on Sunday, and there wasn’t a mask in sight.
NFL protocol mandates mask wearing in locker room before and after games, and during halftime, as well as at any time a player is not actively participating in the action on the field. It would seem the activity in the celebration would violate this protocol.
Tomlin addressed the concern Tuesday.
“I haven’t heard directly from the National Football League. Our organization has, and that is something that we are going to address with our group,” Tomlin said, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “Obviously, emotions were what they were in terms of being divisional champs, but we are in a global pandemic. We take that seriously. We have to control our emotions. It is a continual education process in terms of making sure that our guys understand how important it is that we adhere to the protocols of the pandemic.
“That being said, sometimes the education is punitive in nature and that’s just the reality of it. But we will keep that business in house and appropriately so as we work to keep all business in house in that regard as it pertains to discipline. But make no mistake about it, we take this global pandemic very seriously. We take the guidelines proscribed by the NFL very seriously. We work our tails off to adhere to them, even in the midst of big emotional moments like we experienced after securing our AFC North divisional championship.
“In the midst of all the excitement, there are still lessons to be learned. There’s still growth for us there. We do not run away from it. We run to it.”
Tomlin closed his statement on the matter with his oft-used “run to it” phrase, but we’ll have to wait to see if the league runs back to the Steelers with punishment for not following protocol. Teams have been punished during this season for breaking protocol, but only after positive COVID-19 tests within the organization. That hasn’t been the case with the Steelers to this point, and they’ll hope it remains as such with the playoffs just around the corner.
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