PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger wants to play Friday night, but he doesn't want you to tell his offensive linemen the following:
"I wouldn’t even mind getting hit once," said Roethlisberger, "maybe after the ball is gone, just a little tap from a defensive lineman."
The Steelers play their third preseason game on Friday, in New Orleans, and Roethlisberger will play for the first time this preseason, and he'll play with a plan because the Steelers will use this game as their dress rehearsal for the season opener Sept. 11.
"Hopefully it’s good for all of us," Roethlisberger said, "for me to understand them and for them to understand me, how I work, some of the new guys that either haven’t been on the field with me or haven’t been around, to know how I communicate and how I play, even for the linemen to get back out there with everybody."
From Monday's practice, it appears the entire first-team offensive line will take the field Friday, along with wide receivers Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, who also skipped the first two games, both losses.
Le'Veon Bell will of course sit out the first three games with a suspension but will apparently play Friday. Mike Tomlin said that all healthy personnel will play and Bell has been healthy throughout camp. It would be his first preseason action as well.
The one guy missing is still Ladarius Green. The talented tight end who was signed as a free agent to replace Heath Miller remains sidelined with at least an ankle issue.
"Just be patient," Roethlisberger said. "I am still excited about the possibility and the opportunity and the things that I have seen and heard. I am just hoping he can get healthy and get out there. I’ve seen a lot of things from him. I’ve heard a lot of things from other people about him. I am still excited for the opportunity. He is still communicating with me almost on a daily basis. 'Ben, what do you think about this? What do you want here?' I think the mental aspect and the mental side of it, he is on top of it."
DUPREE GROWING WEARY
Bud Dupree has been working on side fields now since early in spring workouts, but he still won't be ready Friday.
Dupree's not struggling physically, at least from appearances, but his emotions are fraying.
"Yeah, definitely," said last year's first-round draft pick. "It's been a long time. I'm anxious, but I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing to get back on the field."
It's been reported that the outside linebacker is rehabbing a groin injury. He confirmed that, but said there's more.
"Groin and other issues," he said.
Will Dupree be ready for the opener in 20 days?
"I don't know," he said. "I'm just going week-by-week."
Is he sure he's going to play at all this season?
"Yes," he said confidently. "I wish I could be on the field tomorrow, but in reality that's not going to happen. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and get back as quick as I can."
The Steelers' other first-round outside linebacker, Jarvis Jones, returned to practice Monday.
GILBERT BACK IN GROOVE
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed a week of work with a minor injury but returned to practice Monday and said he's as fine as he's ever been.
But didn't he say he was in the best shape of his life last year?
"Yep," he said.
So, you're better this year?
"Better this year," he said. "If you're not better than you were last year, than you've failed your expectations. We set a standard how we perform, as an offense, and we have to be accountable for how you work in the offseason and how you conduct yourself on and off the field."
Gilbert looked over at his old friend Maurkice Pouncey sitting at his locker, turned back, and smiled. "Everything's great," Gilbert said.
A FUTURE STRIKE
Ramon Foster is the Steelers' player rep who hasn't been happy with how the league handled either the Bell or James Harrison cases, and Monday Foster said he expects a protracted work stoppage when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2020 season.
"Yeah, I see it," Foster said. "I think we'd be dumb not to prepare ourselves in that way. There are going to be a lot of things up for debate this time, whether it's 18 games, more medical for the guys, the drug policy and the power that (Roger) Goodell has. There's going to be a lot coming into question this time around, so we have to fully prepare ourselves financially and with knowledge of what's going on. We can't go into this thing blind."
What bothers Foster more, the Harrison or Bell incident?
"Both, honestly," Foster said. "I mean, there has to be a clean-up on the process of dealing with guys who are in the drug program. The publicity we get behind that is ridiculous. We publicize our misfortunes more than any other league. It's bad. It's bad for the league. That has to be addressed. The way that's handled has to be addressed. If you can't reach the player, you have to include the club. It's depending on the drug testor whether they want to involve a coach or the club and it's not a helpful system. If you can't reach a guy, reach out to the coach. Most times the coach can get him. I don't answer unknown phone numbers."