Steelers QB returns to field off bye week

Heyward, Gilbert also return to help rejuvenate Steelers.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers opened the second half of their season in rapidly improving health, if the participation at Monday's practice was any indication.

One of those participants was the big man himself, Ben Roethlisberger, who "did one or two periods," according to guard David DeCastro and "some 7-on-7 as well," according to tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Gilbert, who also made his return as a rotational first-teamer, added of Roethlisberger: "It was very encouraging. You see a guy like that putting in the time in the training room, doing extra work in the bye week, trying to get himself as healthy as possible so that when he comes back he'll be so effective he'll help us get these games in and get our offense rolling again.

"If he can't, Landry (Jones) did a tremendous job last game, and I think he's only going to get more comfortable."

The players were enthused by Roethlisberger's appearance, but Markus Wheaton spoke for the majority when he was asked if it would be surprising to see Roethlisberger play in Baltimore on Sunday.

"It would," said Wheaton. "It would. But it would be nice."

Call it a cautious optimism.

"Ben did great," said DeCastro. "He came back quicker than I expected, but I didn't really have too many expectations. I'll just be happy when he's back."

"The guy threw the ball, he moved around the pocket pretty good," said Gilbert. "He'll play if he's willing and able to take those hits, because they're going to come. So he has to do what's in his best interest so he doesn't have any setbacks."

While the Roethlisberger Watch over whether he can return 20 days after undergoing a meniscus "trim" in his left knee will continue all week, the rest of the Steelers first team appears to be healthy, and that included Cameron Heyward, who confirmed that he practiced full-time on Monday.

"I'll know more (Tuesday) about whether I can play Sunday," Heyward said of a hamstring injury that's kept him out of two games. "As of right now, yes, I feel good. I've just got to see. I'm going to be a little sore, but I'm going to keep practicing and try to get after it. Moving in the right direction."

Heyward's goal this week is to "build strength in the hamstring and get my conditioning right," he said, "because if I do get fatigued I want to make sure it doesn't get fatigued and I re-injure it. But it was really good today."

"You know Cam's a real high-energy guy and he did a good job," said center Maurkice Pouncey. "He was chasing the quarterback some. He was his normal self, yelling at practice. That was good for the defense. We need that type of player, that type of guy."

Wheaton also confirmed that he "rolled in the team (scrimmage) and then I tried to steal as much scout stuff as I could."

Wheaton did take a tumble on the rehabbed shoulder when he was pushed out of bounds by Lawrence Timmons, but, "It felt good though. It held up and I'm excited about that."

Even special-teamer Shamarko Thomas returned to the field. He confirmed that he and another hard hitter, Rosie Nix, were finally working together again on special teams.

One player who struggled a bit was tight end Ladarius Green. Just activated off the PUP list, Green confirmed that he had to shake off some pain and consult with a trainer.

"But I'm all right," he said. "I felt good. Good to have the pads back on."

Green said he took a few first-team reps but mainly worked with the scout team.

Green has two more weeks before the Steelers need to make a decision on his status, and they probably will take most of that time.

Otherwise, the Steelers are feeling good about their health status heading into Baltimore.

"Yeah, I think getting those four days off gave us time to relax and re-set a little bit," said DeCastro. "I think everybody's just mentally and physically ready to go."

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