Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, two additional members of the coaching staff and two players have tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available for the AFC wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night if the game remains as scheduled.
In making the announcement Tuesday, the Browns said special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach.
The Browns shut down their practice facility Tuesday for a fifth time in 10 days to conduct contact tracing.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the other coaches to test positive were a defensive backs coach and a tight end coach, and the players’ positions were wide receiver and offensive line.
During Sunday’s win over the Steelers in the regular-season finale, the Browns had to play without six starters because of COVID-19 protocols, as well as offensive line coaches Bill Callahan and Scott Peters and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea.
Star cornerback Denzel Ward, tight end Harrison Bryant, linebackers Malcolm Smith and B.J. Goodson, and safety Andrew Sendejo all sat out Sunday’s game after testing positive for COVID-19. Nickelback Kevin Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as well, a day before the game.
The Browns are playing in their first playoff game since 2002 after snapping the NFL’s longest postseason drought.
The Steelers opened the day as consensus 4.5-point favorites over the Browns, but the line grew to Pittsburgh -5.5 after the news Tuesday morning.
After a series of roster management changes this summer, including an expansion of practice squads to 16 players, the NFL has made clear it would not move games for competitive reasons. The league followed through on that pledge, shifting games only when it believed an internal team outbreak was underway and could lead to further infections and possibly spread to opponents.
As a result, the Baltimore Ravens lost a Week 12 game against Pittsburgh without quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was among at least 14 players who tested positive during the team’s outbreak. The Denver Broncos were forced to play in Week 12 without any of their four quarterbacks, losing to the New Orleans Saints. And the Detroit Lions played in Week 16 without interim head coach Darrell Bevell and most of their defensive staff, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.