Big Ben's back! Kind of! According to an Associated Press report, Ben Roethlisberger is expected to join his teammates for the opening of Pittsburgh's practice on Monday:
Ben Roethlisberger will line up under center, take the snap and throw his first pass to a teammate since the Steelers ended the season Jan. 3.
The Steelers return to the practice field Monday for the first time since their 9-7 record wasn’t good enough to get them into the playoffs. Roethlisberger is expected to be among them, one week to the day since prosecutors decided not to charge him after a college student accused him of sexual assault.
While there won’t be a criminal proceeding that could have disrupted the Steelers before, during or after the season, the fallout from Roethlisberger’s latest off-the-field problem and its impact on a team that regularly contends for championships could be long-lasting.
It's interesting that he won't be taking any more time off to deal with this issue that's still hanging over his head, but without criminal charges pending, there isn't much reason for Roethlisberger not to practice. He's likely going to be suspended for multiple games over this, but that wouldn't and won't affect his status in practice.
Of course, Roethlisberger's presence also indicates support from the front office, something for which he ought to be grateful. The Rooneys are notoriously ruthless when it comes to chopping popular players when their price tag gets too big or they become a distraction to the team; it may be the case that only Charlie Batch's status as backup quarterback is the only thing keeping Roethlisberger in town. Hey, the Rooneys may be cold-blooded, but they're not suicidal.