OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore has led to the Ravens-Steelers game being postponed to Wednesday.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 3:40 p.m. ET. It becomes the first game of the NFL season to get postponed three times. The game is kicking off at 3:40 p.m. because NBC, which is broadcasting the game, wanted to honor its commitment to broadcast the 88th Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday night, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
With the latest postponement, the Steelers' Week 13 game on Sunday against the Washington Football Team will now be played Monday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Ravens' Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys, which had already been moved once to Dec. 7, will now be played Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 8:05 p.m. ET.
While the Steelers-Washington game was pushed to Monday, the Ravens' game against the Cowboys was pushed to Tuesday because of scheduling, a league source told ESPN's Brooke Pryor.
"These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts," the NFL said in a statement.
The Steelers preferred to play the Ravens this week, rather than postponing to later in the season, like a Week 18 game, because of the "can of worms" that could open, sources told Pryor. The Steelers were also in favor of pushing the Sunday game against the Washington Football Team to Monday for an added day of rest, sources said.
The Week 12 game between the Ravens and Steelers that was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night -- and was moved to Sunday and then Tuesday night -- was shifted for the third time. This will mark the NFL's first game on Wednesday since the 2012 season opener between the Cowboys and New York Giants, which was scheduled for that day to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.
The latest postponement came after the Ravens players said Monday in a teleconference meeting that they did not want to play Tuesday because of concerns over safety. Baltimore had another positive test on Monday, making it nine straight days with at least one player testing positive. The source added that one suggestion from the players was to move the game to Thursday, but the NFL compromised by shifting it to Wednesday.
The Ravens practiced Tuesday after holding a walkthrough on Monday evening, a source told ESPN. Baltimore hadn't had a full practice since Nov. 20, a span of 11 days. The source added that the plan remains for Baltimore to travel to Pittsburgh later Tuesday.
The Steelers, meanwhile, aren't hitting a total reset on their usual pregame schedule. They held their usual Saturday walkthrough on Monday morning, and while they held a light walkthrough Tuesday morning, it wasn't the usual day-before schedule, a source told Pryor.
The team was also expected to hold a few meetings Tuesday before going to the team hotel Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, the Steelers announced that quarterbacks coach Matt Canada (illness) has been cleared to return to the building and will coach in Wednesday's game. The coaching staff, though, is still short-handed with special teams coordinator Danny Smith (illness) out.
For the Ravens, Monday was perhaps the strangest day in what has been one of the most challenging weeks in franchise history. Players had reported to the team facility about a half hour before the scheduled 9:30 a.m. practice when the NFL canceled it to wait for the latest test results, a source said. The Ravens waited most of the day not knowing whether they would practice again that afternoon and board a plane to play the NFL's only undefeated team. The day ended with the game between AFC North rivals getting moved for the third time in six days.
Baltimore is in the midst of one of the largest outbreaks in professional sports. The Ravens have had 22 players test positive or get identified as a high-risk close contact over the past nine days.
At least a dozen Ravens players have tested positive, including reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, along with five Pro Bowl players: defensive end Calais Campbell, tight end Mark Andrews, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, running back Mark Ingram and fullback Patrick Ricard.
The Ravens still have 20 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Baltimore added four players (Andrews, Judon, wide receiver Willie Snead IV and cornerback Terrell Bonds) and removed four players (outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, cornerback Iman Marshall and defensive tackle Broderick Washington). Marshall will revert to injured reserve.
Running backs JK Dobbins and Ingram will be eligible to play Wednesday but 13 Ravens players, including Jackson, will remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a source told Schefter.
As of Monday evening, the Ravens have 38 players on their 53-man roster after guard Tyre Phillips (shoulder) was activated off injured reserve and cornerback Davontae Harris was officially signed.
Monday's round of Ravens tests produced one new positive result, but it's a player on injured reserve who hasn't had close contact with anyone else, a source told ESPN's Dan Graziano.
The only other game this season that had previously been postponed twice was a Week 5 game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Positive coronavirus tests in New England pushed that game from Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 before it was played on Oct. 18.
The Ravens-Steelers game becomes the second Wednesday game in the NFL since 1948. The last one before the 2012 season opener was Sept. 22, 1948, when the Los Angeles Rams played the Detroit Lions.