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AFC Playoffs: Ben Roethlisberger to rest Week 17

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Tuesday that future Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger would sit out the team’s final game of the season on Sunday to get rest. Head coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t comment on any other players yet.

The Steelers and Buffalo Bills are tied for the two seed, but Buffalo holds the tiebreaker so even if Pittsburgh wins, they could stay in the three spot. With no or very few fans in the stands around the league, and a short flight to Buffalo, home-field advantage is not as big of a deal as it has been in the past.

Getting the start for Pittsburgh at quarterback will be Mason Rudolph. It’s a notable decision to start Rudolph against the Cleveland Browns. Last season, Rudolph was involved in an altercation with Cleveland where he was accused of saying a racial slur during the game. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett removed Rudolph’s helmet and swung it at the QB’s head. It should make for some added charge.

The Browns haven’t made the playoffs in 17 years and a win on Sunday would send them to the postseason.

Pittsburgh hasn’t had a true bye week this season. They didn’t play in Week 4, but they practice all week preparing for the Tennessee Titans, who were dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. The game was delayed to Pittsburgh’s true bye week, meaning the Steelers didn’t have a single week during the season where they didn’t practice fully. Even their mini-bye following a planned Thursday night game on Thanksgiving was impacted, as that game was repeatedly delayed to the following Wednesday after a COVID-19 outbreak on the Baltimore Ravens.