PITTSBURGH — Because he’s on the reserve/COVID-19 list, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn’t available to practice for the Pittsburgh Steelers all week.
But the undefeated Steelers are still anticipating that he’ll be available to play against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Roethlisberger, 38, went on the list Tuesday morning as a high-risk close contact after tight end Vance McDonald returned a positive test for the coronavirus a day earlier.
“We’ll prepare and continue to prepare as if Ben is playing,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said Thursday. “As of this point right now, he hasn’t missed a rep. He doesn’t practice on Wednesdays anyway. … there’s been various times in his career where he has not practiced all week and played in games and played successful in games. I don’t question that one bit.”
If he continues to test negative and not develop symptoms, Roethlisberger would be eligible to come off the COVID-19 list on Saturday and participate in the walk-through.
Without Roethlisberger at practice this week, Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs are each getting extra reps with the first team.
“Mason is taking reps,” Fichtner said. “Josh is taking reps. I don’t know if it’s equal reps, but we’re preparing both just like we would every week. They just get a few more reps this week on Thursday and Friday.”
Fichtner didn’t commit to playing one quarterback more than the other in Sunday’s game if Roethlisberger can’t go.
“Both of them to this point have worked their tails off to put themselves into that conversation,” he said.
Though he can’t be at practice physically, Roethlisberger is participating in virtual team meetings and communicating with his coaches.
“He’s been great, because obviously he’s accessible,” Fichtner said. “He’s got plenty of free time. We’re the ones that have to make the time to fit. … Ben likes to text, so we get texts at night and go back and forth about a lot of things. … It’s as if he’s been in the room.”