PITTSBURGH — It would be ideal if the winner of the Super Bowl was actually the best team in the NFL. That happens sometimes, but often there are other factors — injuries, the right path of opponents, a couple of key calls — that help determine the winner.
COVID-19 protocols trump all of those factors and could be the single biggest factor in the fate of teams fighting for the Super Bowl. We — at least in my lifetime and I’m 50 years old — can never recall any non-football factor that weighs so heavily on the outcome of the games. We have never seen anything that could change the fortunes of a team as quickly as these COVID-19 protocols have.
We got another reminder of this with the Browns announcing that their head coach, Kevan Stefanski, and guard Joel Bitonio and receiver KhaDarel Hodge tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available for the Steelers-Browns playoff game Sunday.