PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger's unexpected week off won't stop him from starting against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Pittsburgh Steelers activated their longtime quarterback and three other teammates off the COVID-19 list on Saturday, clearing the way for Roethlisberger to be in uniform when the Steelers (8-0) host Cincinnati (2-5-1).
Roethlisberger, linebacker Vince Williams, running back Jaylen Samuels and reserve offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins were forced to self-quarantine this week after teammate Vance McDonald tested positive for the coronavirus. All four players have repeatedly tested negative, clearing the way for them to play.
The 38-year-old Roethlisberger joked that while his body enjoyed the downtime, serving as a pre-K teacher for his three children wasn't quite as fun as playing football. Roethlisberger didn't miss a meeting thanks to advances in technology but admitted it wasn't the same as being on the field.
"It's definitely different than in years past because typically when I haven't practiced, I've been on the field behind the quarterbacks," he said.
Roethlisberger was able to watch every play of practice while Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs took the snaps, but he was unable to talk to offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada in real time. He did his best to play catchup over text and stayed engaged over Zoom but allowed there are some elements that simply can't be replicated over video.
"There's something to be said to, maybe I'm old school, about sitting in a meeting ... when the guys are there in the same room and you're having dialogue and you're talking about little nuances," Roethlisberger said.
This won't be the first time Roethlisberger has played on Sunday despite sitting out the entire week. In November 2015 a foot injury forced him to miss practice in preparation for a game against Cleveland. Landry Jones started in his place only to leave in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Roethlisberger came off the bench to throw for 379 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-9 victory.
This isn't quite like that. Five years ago, Roethlisberger was still able to access the team facility. Not this time, thanks to the NFL's COVID-19 protocols. Coach Mike Tomlin, however, believes Roethlisberger should be able to play without missing a beat given his experience level.
Roethlisberger admitted he took extra precautions at home, sleeping in a different bedroom from his wife and wearing a mask both inside his house and in the car.
"You're always nervous," Roethlisberger said. "My wife said, 'I don't care if I get it, we don't want our kid to get it.' You always care more about your kids than you do about yourself or anyone. We've been as safe as we can possibly be at home."
The Steelers also expect Williams to fill his usual spot at inside linebacker after being cleared. Newly acquired Avery Williamson filled in for Williams at practice this week.