Pittsburgh pro teams given green light by Pa. Gov. to practice, play; Philly still week away

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a new guidance Wednesday permitting the play and practice of professional sports in counties that are under the yellow and/or green phase of reopening.

But that doesn't mean every professional team in the state can start gathering right away.

Located in Allegheny County, which currently is "yellow," the Pittsburgh Steelers would be allowed by local laws to practice once the NFL permits. But the Eagles, located in the "red" Philadelphia region, would not be allowed until their county moves to "yellow" on June 5.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates would be allowed to resume practice and play under Wolf's guidance, as would the Phillies after June 5.

The Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, who practice in New Jersey, were given the green light by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday. Wolf's guidance would allow them to hold games in their home arenas as long as there were no fans in attendance.

Earlier this week, the NHL announced a plan that would reopen team facilities and resume training in June.

And, because Monroe County will move to the "yellow" phase on Friday, the NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway from June 25-28 will be allowed to go on as scheduled.

There have been 69,417 cases of the coronavirus and 5,265 deaths in Pennsylvania, with the Philadelphia region being the hardest hit. There have been more than 17,000 cases in Philadelphia County. Allegheny County has had 1,828, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

"Professional sports, defined as any sporting event at which the participants are paid by a league or team, or at which individuals or teams receive prizes or purse, are allowed to practice or play in the yellow and green phases of reopening without on-site or venue spectators if the team (or league on behalf of the team) has developed a COVID-19 safety plan," Wolf said in a statement.

Wolf added that the plan must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and must include testing or screening and monitoring of all on-venue players and personnel. Spectators will not be permitted on "interior or exterior venue property."

The Steelers put single-game tickets on sale last week, but held back 50% of available tickets in preparation for potential social distancing guidelines for fans at Heinz Field.

The Steelers' facility opened May 19, abiding by the league's reopening plan, which allows no more than 50% of staff -- and no more than 75 people -- in the facility. No member of the coaching staff is allowed in the building, though the strength and conditioning coach can be there if he or she is rehabilitating an injured player. Players also are not allowed, unless they are injured and receiving treatment.

"We opened our facility last Tuesday, May 19, and have adhered to the policies and guidelines from government and health officials as well as the National Football League," Steelers director of communications Burt Lauten said in a statement. "We appreciate the guidance from the Governor's office as we make plans to safely prepare for the 2020 season."

The Steelers are currently conducting virtual OTAs as a part of the virtual offseason, and coach Mike Tomlin has advocated for "competitive fairness" in allowing personnel back into the facilities.

"I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity," Tomlin said earlier this month. "Our game is extremely competitive. It's one of the things that make football at this level so attractive to our fans. I'm committed to preserving and protecting that, and so all teams getting an opportunity to start on the same footing is a core element of that."