The Pittsburgh Steelers can take over first place in the AFC North with a win on Sunday, but now they will have to do it without their starting quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger will be unavailable for Sunday's game after the Steelers placed him on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a team spokesperson announced Saturday. Backup quarterback Mason Rudolph figures to start against the Detroit Lions in Roethlisberger's place.
STATUS UPDATE: #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will be placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and is OUT for Sunday’s game vs. the Detroit Lions.
— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) November 14, 2021
Placement on the COVID-19 list can mean a player has either tested positive for COVID-19 or has been in close contact with an infected person. The Steelers did not specify what happened with Roethlisberger, but simple deduction indicates that Roethlisberger tested positive.
Roethlisberger said on the "Dan Patrick Show" earlier this month that he is fully vaccinated. NFL COVID-19 protocols dictate that vaccinated players don't have to be sidelined if they are a close contact, so Roethlisberger had to have tested positive to be placed on the list, if what he said is true.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) November 5, 2021
If Roethlisberger tested positive and is vaccinated, he only needs two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart to return to the field.
Steelers playing for division lead with Roethlisberger
Thanks to the Baltimore Ravens' shocking loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, the 5-3 Steelers will be playing for first place in the AFC North on Sunday, not to mention their fifth straight win. They figure to still have a good chance even without Roethlisberger, as the 0-8 Lions are still playing for their first win.
Rudolph is now set to make his first appearance of the 2021 season, and his first meaningful start since 2019 when Roethlisberger missed games with an elbow injury. In a Week 17 start last year after Pittsburgh clinched the division, Rudolph went 22-for-39 for 315 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Dwayne Haskins, the former Washington Football Team starter who is currently Pittsburgh's third-stringer, figures to take over backup duties on Sunday.
Roethlisberger has passed for 1,986 yards through eight starts this season, with a 65.6 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and 6.6 yards per attempt.