The Steelers were informed of the positive test Monday morning, Steelers spokesperson Burt Lauten said in a statement.
McDonald immediately self-quarantined, Lauten said, and the team remains in the intensive COVID-19 protocol.
McDonald was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, per the NFL transactions wire. He was first added to the injury report with an ‘illness’ on Friday. He still traveled and played 24 snaps Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Steelers first entered the intensive protocol — which requires players to wear face coverings during practice, among other heightened measures to stop the spread of the virus — last week after Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey returned a positive test shortly after playing the Steelers.
In that situation, Humphrey was sent home from the Ravens’ team facility on the Wednesday before the Steelers’ game after he reported “cold symptoms.” He then returned to practice Thursday and Friday before playing in 100% of defensive snaps against the Steelers. The NFL has maintained there is no evidence of on-field transmission, and according to NextGen Stats, Humphrey never appeared to line up across from McDonald pre-snap.
The Steelers can look to the Ravens’ timeline with Humphrey for an idea of how this week could go.
Humphrey was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday to begin his 10-day quarantine. The next day, the Ravens placed seven players identified as “high risk” contacts of Humphrey on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Matthew Judon was removed from the list Thursday and the other six were activated Saturday. Six of the players played in Sunday’s win against the Indianapolis Colts. Only Humphrey remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
But the Steelers’ situation could result in more players being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as close contacts, because while the Ravens were home the weekend of Humphrey’s positive test, the Steelers were on the road against the Cowboys. Despite missing Friday’s practice with an “illness” designation, McDonald traveled with the team on a plane to Dallas on Saturday. The Steelers are currently contact tracing to determine those at risk.
Players identified as “high risk” close contacts must be isolated immediately and cannot return to the club facility or have any team interaction for a minimum of five days after the last exposure to the infected individual. Those designated a “close contact” must get a PCR virus test. If the first test comes back negative, the individual then must get a second test. The individual must be isolated until the results of the first test are negative. If the close contact then remains asymptomatic, he or she can continue to be in club facilities and participate in team activities with increased monitoring.
The Steelers beat the Cowboys on Sunday to remain undefeated at 8-0.
As a result of the Steelers’ positive COVID-19 test, the Cowboys are under stricter protocols and will not practice Wednesday. Mike McCarthy said the Cowboys will have virtual meetings in place.
The Cowboys are off this week with a bye.