Ben Roethlisberger to play Saturday, excited for 'newness' of Pittsburgh Steelers' offense

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will take the field for the first time this preseason on Saturday night against the Detroit Lions.

How long he'll play, though, is unclear.

"We'll play it by ear. We have a plan, but we're willing to adjust that plan based on what it is we see in-stadium," coach Mike Tomlin said, declining to elaborate further.

The 39-year-old quarterback would typically start the third preseason game in the previous four-game preseason format. In 2019, he played three quick series against Tennessee before exiting in the first quarter.

To Roethlisberger, the need to play Saturday is precipitated by new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and his new offensive scheme. It will be Roethlisberger's first opportunity to work with Canada in-game.

"Because we've got a new system," Roethlisberger said, explaining why he needs to play. "There's a new coach, player communication in terms of a new guy, the offense is different. He's up in the box as compared to on the field.

"There's a lot of newness. I think it's prudent to get as much time as I can in under those circumstances."

And while the newness could be daunting as he enters his 18th season, Roethlisberger is embracing the challenge.

"It almost refocuses you in a way, if that makes sense," Roethlisberger said. "If this was still the same stuff, I'd probably go home, watch the film and be ready to move on.

"Last night I went home, watched the film and then went back over it again just to refresh it in my mind. I just think because it's different, I want to make sure I'm not the reason we struggle."

Like his coach, Roethlisberger was also coy on just how much action he expects to see Saturday -- or needs to see to feel comfortable with Canada.

"I would love to get as many reps as I can," Roethlisberger said. "It's been how many months since I've stepped on a football field to take a hit or play. I know it's preseason, but just meaningful types of reps. With the newness of it, I'd like to get as much as I can."

But exactly how much?

"It's probably a progressive-type answer," he said. "I don't know. I guess it depends on how it's going, how it feels."

Roethlisberger lobbied to get on the field even earlier than Saturday, voicing his desire to play a week ago in Philadelphia to prepare for the Week 1 game in Buffalo.

"I really wanted to try and play last week because it was on the road," Roethlisberger said. "It would've been our first opportunity to play on the road with circumstances and situations like crowd noise and things like that before we go into a very hostile environment in Week 1. But coach, I couldn't talk him into it."

To prepare for Saturday's outing, Roethlisberger had a heavy workload throughout the week, beginning with Tuesday's practice. In one 7-on-7 period, Roethlisberger completed 11 of 12 attempts, and in a team period, he aired a deep pass out to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who beat Tre Norwood and Justin Layne to make the diving catch.

Roethlisberger didn't take a day off in the three-practice stretch, changing up the routine from earlier in camp when he fully practiced one day before taking a half day, followed by a day off.

"I asked coach if I could take as many reps and I could this week just because it's been a while and I wanted to simulate a game week," he said.

To further his preparation, Roethlisberger spent extra time reviewing game film at home.

"If you think about it, on every play, pass play, I have to know what five guys are doing," Roethlisberger said. "It's not just one guy or what I'm doing. I have to know what the hot is and what every specific guy is doing. There will be times where I know what three of them are doing, and then it's, 'Wait, what is this guy doing again?' I just have to try and refresh in my mind."