Updated with more information at 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2020.
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans are playing the waiting game instead of football, hoping the NFL allows them back inside their headquarters by early next week.
Their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers is now postponed until later in the season because of the league's first COVID-19 outbreak.
The NFL postponed the game in Nashville after one additional Tennessee player and one personnel member tested positive for COVID-19. Thursday's announcement less than 24 hours after the league said it hoped to play the game, originally set for Sunday, on either Monday or Tuesday. The NFL said a new date will be announced "shortly" for the contest that would have featured two of the league's seven remaining undefeated teams entering the fourth week.
Coach Mike Vrabel informed his Titans of the newest positive tests and the NFL's decision during a team meeting Thursday morning. That puts Tennessee — and Pittsburgh — on a bye week much sooner than planned.
"I told them to try to mentally recover from an emotional few days so that we can proceed with our season, build on a 3-0 start," said Vrabel, who said the Titans hope to be allowed back inside their building Monday or Tuesday.
When that actually happens depends on the daily testing results. The Titans had one positive test last Saturday, for outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen, which prevented him from traveling with Tennessee to Minnesota for a 31-30 win. The Vikings returned to work at their facility Thursday.
The Titans are scheduled to host Buffalo, also currently undefeated, on Oct. 11 — depending on the results of daily testing.
On Tuesday, the Titans placed three players on the COVID-19 reserve list, including defensive captain and lineman DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley. Outside linebacker Kamalei Correa became the fourth on that list Wednesday, and rookie cornerback Kristian Fulton became the fifth Thursday.
With the two new cases, the Titans' total is now 12: five players and seven other organization members since last Saturday. Vrabel said he's very confident the Titans have followed the contact tracing protocol to identify anyone at risk from being close together.
"So we'll see what happens tomorrow when we get those results back," Vrabel said.
The NFL decided to postpone the game "to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel." The league also said the Titans cannot have any in-person activities until further notice with the facility remaining closed.
The league also sent a memo Thursday detailing new steps for teams dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak or exposed to a team facing one, such as Minnesota.
Vrabel said the Titans also likely will have some new protocols to follow once they get back into the building, but he did not elaborate.
The Titans already had a couple of players on the COVID-19 reserve list, with defensive back Greg Maybin, who was signed to the practice squad Sept. 21, added to that list Sept. 24. Vrabel said Mabin left the building and went into quarantine once his positive test came back.
Vrabel said some of those who tested positive haven't had any symptoms, while others have had some flu-like symptoms. Vrabel, who said Wednesday he was not among those testing positive, declined Thursday to single out anyone specifically, but he said people were starting to feel better.
After a virtual offseason and three weeks without an outbreak, the NFL has its first scheduling puzzle.
The simplest scenario for the Steelers and Titans making up the meeting is Week 7 on Oct. 25, which is an open date for Tennessee. Pittsburgh is scheduled to play at Baltimore that week, but both the Steelers and the Ravens are off the following week, allowing the NFL to make a change affecting only one other team.
Both Vrabel and Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said they had an idea of what the new date could be. For now, both of their teams went from game preparation to unexpected time off and a chance for some injuries to heal.
Unlike other seasons, players must stick around during the bye week for daily testing to avoid the need for quarantine returning from a trip. Vrabel isn't worried about his players' response to that responsibility.
"They'll handle it with professionalism, with understanding and a compassion towards not only ourselves and those people that have been affected, but also Pittsburgh, the Steelers that were preparing for a game and now will have their schedule changed as well," Vrabel said.
Now the next opponent for the Steelers, who had been scheduled to practice Thursday, is Philadelphia on Oct. 11. Tomlin called it the nature of the environment in 2020.
"We're just adjusting accordingly," Tomlin said. "But there's disappointment, no question. We've worked extremely hard at the beginning portion of this week in preparation for what we thought was an opportunity versus an undefeated team in their venue, and so you lean in on those opportunities."
The Titans, who played in the AFC championship game in January, and the Steelers, revived with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back from injury, may be playing without a break through the rest of the regular season.
Vrabel, a former linebacker who won three Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots, has some experience in that regard.
"I was part of a team in 2001 that after the 9/11 incident played 14 straight games," Vrabel said, "and won the Super Bowl that (season)."