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Big Ben returns to Steelers practice to help young receivers

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Clay: Will Dissly get more chances with Vannett gone? (1:41)

Mike Clay wonders if Will Dissly could get more playing time in Seattle with Nick Vannett's recent trade to the Steelers. (1:41)

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger was back on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice field Thursday.

No, he hasn't made a miraculous recovery from the elbow injury that has ended his season. His right arm was in a sling. Only three days have passed since surgery in Los Angeles.

Players sometimes rehabilitate long-term injuries away from the team, but the Steelers weren't lying earlier this week when they said in a statement that Roethlisberger would immediately begin his recovery in Pittsburgh.

He spent Thursday afternoon in the midst of practice, supporting teammates and getting involved in the X's and O's of the Steelers' Monday Night Football matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.

"He's a great guy and so he's out here supporting us," receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. "He's a captain. Whether he's in a game or not in a game, he's out there helping us, dissecting the defense. He tells us what he likes and we go off of there."

Smith-Schuster scored on a 76-yard touchdown pass from new quarterback Mason Rudolph in last Sunday's 24-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. But for the most part, Rudolph has struggled to push the ball down the field the way Roethlisberger did for much of his career.

Against the 49ers, Rudolph completed only two passes that traveled two or more yards past the line of scrimmage, something that has happened only twice on a minimum of 25 attempts in the past 14 years of NFL games. Rudolph played at Oklahoma State with Steelers receiver James Washington, but otherwise is still getting to know the rest of the Steelers' pass-catchers.

Asked if he hopes Rudolph starts having more success down the field, Smith-Schuster said: "I hope so. The connection he had with James in college, we're trying to build that with all of the receivers."