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Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger sent home with undisclosed illness

| Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, 11:24 a.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hands the ball off during second quarter action Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hands the ball off during second quarter action Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, shown practicing Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, on the South Side.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, shown practicing Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, on the South Side.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sent home Wednesday morning — the first day of practice for the week — with an undisclosed illness as the Steelers began preparation for the regular-season finale in Cleveland on Sunday.

Roethlisberger typically doesn't miss practice during the week even for what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin calls a “maintenance day,” making his absence Wednesday unusual.

Roethlisberger was in the locker room Monday following the Steelers' 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and participated in his weekly radio show Tuesday without any mention of an illness.

Landry Jones likely will take all of the reps in practice until Roethlisberger returns.

The Steelers need to defeat the Browns and have the Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets to qualify as the final wild-card team in the AFC.

Also, cornerback Antwon Blake (back), wide receiver Martavis Bryant (illness), linebacker James Harrison (illness) and safety Mike Mitchell sat out practice with injuries or illness. Cornerback William Gay and tight end Heath Miller were out with non-injury related reasons, and cornerback Doran Grant (groin) was limited.

Preparing for Johnny

Quarterback Mike Vick will simulate Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel during practice this week, but Browns coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday he's preparing to start Austin Davis if Manziel doesn't pass the concussion protocol.

“It's still important for us to prepare as if he's playing,” Vick said. “The most important thing is to get this win this week.

“People see Johnny doing things I did years ago to a certain extent. You have to prepare for a guy who's dangerous, and Johnny is dangerous. He's gotten better since the last time we played them. He's playing confident and he's assertive with the football. We have to do everything to keep him bottled up.”

Brotherly love

Linebacker Vince Williams and his brother, Bills running back Karlos Williams, joked earlier this week that if Roethlisberger didn't send him a gift, he'd fumble at the 1-yard line with a opportunity to beat the Jets.

“He said I kind of want to see you (win) anyway because I'm ready to go home,” Vince Williams said. “He's just making little jokes like that.”

All jokes aside, Karlos Williams must have a big day to derail the Jets' playoff aspirations, especially if Pitt product LeSean McCoy (knee) is unable to play.

Buffalo leads the NFL in rushing with 154.6 yards per game, and the Jets are first in rush defense, allowing 81.5 yards per contest.

No comparison

When asked to compare Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and former Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly, cornerback Brandon Boykin said, “Tomlin treats players like professionals and grown men.” Boykin added that Kelly didn't respect many of the Eagles, and he wasn't surprised by his former coach's dismissal with one game left in the season Tuesday.

“I think the players realized that a long time ago,” he said. “Now the world knows. You can't trick players or pretend to be someone you're not if the results aren't there. The guys who were man enough to make a difference and do something about it were axed or (Kelly) acted like there were sour grapes or whatever.

“We were telling the truth, and people see that now. We are grown men, and he overlooked that aspect of it. He acted like he was better and smarter than people at his level, and that's where the respect was lost.”

Staff writer Ralph N. Paulk contributed to this report. Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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