Big Ben To Return To Field Saturday, Expects Warm Greeting From Jersey Steakheads

It’s been a very long offseason for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and it won’t be ending until at least four weeks into the regular season. But Big Ben’s suspension doesn’t preclude him from playing in preseason games, and that means Roethlisberger can and will see time against the Giants on Saturday night.

Ed Bouchette at the Post Gazette got confirmation from Steelers OC Bruce Arians.

While coach Mike Tomlin declined to reveal his plans for Roethlisberger, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians spilled the beans after practice Monday.

"Ben's going to play this week," Arians announced.

I find it somewhat odd that Big Ben was held out of the preseason opener against Detroit, a home game, and instead will play for the first time since his assault allegations in front of what will almost certainly be an openly hostile New Jersey crowd that has batteries with his name on them ready to go. Seriously, they are going to lay into that guy, which is cutely hypocritical, given that Meadowlands crowds have never exactly been friendly to the ladies.

Granted, there’s no right place for Roethlisberger to take the field after his assault charges. He’s going to get booed anywhere he goes, even at home. In fact, holding out the home opener suggests that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin feared Big Ben would be booed even more lustily by his own fans than by a road crowd.

I don’t really buy that. I think Pittsburgh’s dislike for Roethlisberger was more wishful thinking by the media than anything else. Starting him out on the road suggests that Tomlin and company would prefer to have Ben get his first batch of abuse in a road environment, where it will be certainly expected, perhaps to sway Steelers fans back in his favor. Hey, they can’t boo Ben! Only WE can do that!

The question is: How will Ben stand up to all this? Saturday night will mark only the beginning of what will be a year of relentless and brutal taunting, and media scrutiny surrounding that relentless and brutal taunting.

Will that affect his play? Will he be the same quarterback he was before the proverbial fit hit the shan? Well, Ben never struck anyone as the particularly introspective sort. I’m not even sure he has an inner monologue. So if anyone can fend off the cries of CRIMINAL , it’s probably a big lug who’s never seemed to care about what people think. We’ll find out in three days.

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