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Ben Roethlisberger will practice as the Pittsburgh Steelers' starter this week

Roethlisberger cleared to return as the Steelers' starting QB this week against the Bengals.

As expected, Ben Roethlisberger will practice this week in anticipation of starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

Mike Tomlin has no reservations about that, nor Roethlisberger's mobility. But what about knocking off the rust that may follow four missed games with an MCL sprain in Roethlisberger's left knee?

"There's always a concern in that regard anytime someone's coming off an injury," said Tomlin. "But we're not going to lose a lot of sleep over that. Ben's played a lot of ball for us. He's got great continuity and recall from his time in this system. He'll have a full week's preparation, and actually he participated in a partial capacity a week ago. Hopefully all of those things will allow him to push past some of the anxiety associated with getting back out there."

Roethlisberger actually took part in 7-on-7 drills two weeks ago, and then practiced with the first team last Wednesday before his practice time diminished by Friday, when he left practice early. Roethlisberger's mobility was obviously limited last week, making the decision to sit him one last game -- with left tackle Kelvin Beachum giving way to a first-time starter -- an easy one.

"We will keep an eye on him to make sure there's no negative reaction to that practice participation," Tomlin said. "But as I sit here today we're comfortable where he is and his overall availability this week. We're going to need him, obviously. Cincinnati's offense is really rolling on all cylinders right now."

As for the remainder of the Steelers' injury report, Tomlin broke it down this way:

* Reserve linebcker Terence Garvin underwent surgery Monday on an MCL sprain suffered last Friday in practice. Tomlin said he'll miss a couple of weeks.

* Cornerback Will Gay suffered a shoulder contusion during the loss in Kansas City. He could be limited in practice this week. If he can't play, Tomlin said Gay would be replaced by Brandon Boykin. Whether that's only in the slot in the nickel back or as the starter in the base defense wasn't made clear by Tomlin.

* Defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt "has a chance" to play Sunday against the Bengals. "Same thing with Will Allen (ankle). Same thing with Michael Vick (hamstring)."

* Tomlin said cornerback Antwon Blake (thumb) and linebacker Ryan Shazier (shoulder) "had no negative reaction" in the game on Sunday.

GRADING VILLANUEVA

Alejandro Villanueva made his first start Sunday. He replaced Beachum at left tackle and was beaten by Tamba Hali for a sack/fumble on the Steelers' final offensive play of the game. Tomlin was asked how Villanueva played overall.

"I thought he did a lot of things well," Tomlin said. "The performance will be remembered for the sack/fumble late but that just comes with professional football and the left tackle position. We all did a lot of collective things to bring that circumstance to a head, where we got somewhat one-dimensional and Tamba Hali was able to pin his ears back and win that down. But largely I was pleased with the general progress of Al and the general trajectory of his game."

COVERING TIGHT ENDS

The Steelers have been hurt by some of the game's best tight ends, such as Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Travis Kelce. Now here comes Tyler Eifert, the Bengals' first-round draft pick in 2013.

Gronkowski and Kelce are the league's leading receivers among tight ends with 34 catches each. Eifert has 28 catches for 342 yards and six touchdowns.

"Those guys have done to us what we've seen them do to others," Tomlin said. "Our job is to try to minimize that. We've got another challenge this week because Tyler's video has been impressive."

Gronkowski's average per game is six catches for 89 yards. Against the Steelers he caught five for 94.

Gates' average  per game (only two played) is nine catches for 94 yards. Against the Steelers he caught nine for 92.

Kelce's average per game is five catches for 70 yards. Against the Steelers he caught five for 73.

QUOTABLE

Q: Where did the term "Standard is the standard" come from?

MT: "I don't know. I don't think a lot about the things that I say, to be honest with you. I'm just trying to use words that vividly capture the imagination of our guys so that they can remember the messages, so they can somehow be ingrained in their mind, so they can somehow make it come alive inside stadiums on the grass. By whatever means we get that done, I'm for it. If they're parroting the things that I say or we say, that means it's getting home. And that's what we see."


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