Ben Roethlisberger: Steelers should have been on field during anthem

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers will be on the field for the national anthem "moving forward," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said alongside defensive end Cam Heyward at a press conference Monday at the team facility. Roethlisberger and Heyward are the Steelers' captains.

"What we do while we're out there is yet to be determined," said Roethlisberger, whose Steelers play at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. "I know I want to be on the field, Cam wants to be on the field, and the guys in that locker room want to be on the field."

Roethlisberger's comments came shortly after he wrote on his website Monday that he wishes the Steelers handled their show of unity during the national anthem differently Sunday.

Roethlisberger wrote that he "was unable to sleep last night" as the Steelers' method of protest weighed on him.

The Steelers decided to stay in the Soldier Field tunnel before Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears in light of comments made by President Donald Trump about anthem protests by NFL players. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army ranger, was the lone Steeler standing just outside the tunnel, hand over heart, a move that one team source said surprised many players based on the unified approach outlined at Saturday's players-only meeting.

Roethlisberger said that he and Heyward asked Villanueva to meet them at the top of the tunnel. Roethlisberger explained that Villanueva was trying to get a vantage point of the flag from the tunnel's entrance but didn't expect to be separated from his teammates. The QB said that amid the "chaos" related to Bears fans in the area and the anthem music starting, the Steelers players stopped short and Villanueva was left alone. Roethlisberger estimates the Steelers players were about 20 feet behind Villanueva.

"I regret not going down to Al, but Al didn't know that we weren't there," Roethlisberger said. "Al thought we were standing with him. There was no division there. ... It was just the way it appeared through pictures."

Heyward said he and Roethlisberger have spoken with Villanueva, who was with the team during Monday's meetings. Villanueva told Heyward he was "shocked" by the photos that showed Villanueva separated from his teammates, Heyward said.

Villanueva insisted Monday he was not making a statement, that saluting the colors had everything to do with miscommunication and nothing to do with him setting himself apart from the organization, the coaches or the players who have helped craft his improbable success story.

"It's a very embarrassing part on my end,'' Villanueva said on Monday. "When everyone sees images of me standing by myself, everybody thinks the team and the Steelers are not behind me and that is absolutely wrong. It's quite the opposite.''

Both Villanueva and Heyward were clear they fully support the military and Sunday was not a boycott, but a stand of unity. Roethlisberger said in a statement released Monday that he had trouble sleeping Sunday night after the way things went down.

"I just felt like I wish that we would have been on the field," Roethlisberger said. "That's just my personal feeling on it. I'm entitled to that opinion. That's what's great about this country and what the troops are for. I wish we could have stood out there. What was important was being united as well, and that's what we showed. We showed unity. Because that's what we need in this country right now. There's so much division. We need to stay together."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.