Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, two other coaches and two players have tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available for the AFC wildcard game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night if the game goes as planned.
On Tuesday’s announcement, the Browns said that specialty teams coordinator Mike Priefer would serve as deputy head coach.
The Browns closed their exercise facility for the fifth time in 10 days on Tuesday to conduct contact tracing.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the other coaches who were supposed to test positive were a defensive coach and a tight-end coach, and the players’ positions were a broad receiver and offensive line.
During Sunday’s win against the Steelers in the regular season finals, the Browns had to play without six starters due to COVID-19 protocols, as well as offensive coaches Bill Callahan and Scott Peters and wide-angle receiver coach Chad O’Shea.
Star cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Harrison Bryant, linebackers Malcolm Smith and B.J. Goodson, as well as safety Andrew Sendejo, exposed themselves on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. Nickelback Kevin Johnson was also put on the Reserve / COVID-19 list the day before the game.
The Browns are playing in their first playoff game since 2002 after weathering the NFL’s longest post-season drought.
The Steelers opened the day as consensus favorites with 4.5 points over the Browns, but the line grew to a Pittsburgh -5.5 on Tuesday morning news.
After a number of roster management changes this summer, including an expansion of the practice groups to 16 players, the NFL has made it clear that games will not be postponed for competitive reasons. The league followed up on that promise and only relocated games if it believed an internal team breakout was underway and could lead to further infection and potentially spread to opponents.
As a result, the Baltimore Ravens lost a week 12 game against Pittsburgh without quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was among the at least 14 players who tested positive during the team’s outbreak. The Denver Broncos had to play without one of their four quarterbacks in week 12 and lost to the New Orleans Saints. And the Detroit Lions played without interim coach Darrell Bevell and most of their defenders in Week 16 and lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.