The unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals as if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be on the field.
The 38-year-old Roethlisberger is on the reserve/COVID-19 list due to being considered a high-risk close contract of tight end Vance McDonald, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
Roethlisberger was placed on the list Tuesday. If he continues to test negative and avoids the development of symptoms, he would be eligible to come off the list on Saturday.
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner doesn’t see the lack of practice time as a problem when it comes to Roethlisberger playing in Sunday’s home contest.
“We’ll prepare and continue to prepare as if Ben is playing,” Fichtner told reporters on Thursday. “… 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.”
Backup quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs are both receiving extra work with the first team this week. There hasn’t been a declaration over who would start if Roethlisberger can’t.
“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.”
Rudolph started eight games last season when Roethlisberger was sidelined with an elbow injury. Overall, he saw action in 10 games and passed for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Dobbs has never started an NFL game. He saw action in five games as a reserve in 2018 and was 6-of-12 passing for 43 yards and one interception.
Meanwhile, Roethlisberger is staying engaged by participating in virtual meetings and communicating with the coaching staff.
“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.”
Roethlisberger has passed for 1,934 yards and 18 touchdowns against four interceptions this season.
Three other Steelers joined Roethlisberger on the COVID-19 list — offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins, running back Jaylen Samuels and linebacker Vince Williams.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)