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Tomlin: Roethlisberger could have returned earlier after rib injury

Joe Rutter
| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, 6:18 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (97) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (97) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Ben Roethlisberger walked off the field with 10 seconds left in the first half Sunday, getting an escort from Pittsburgh Steelers orthopedist Dr. James Bradley as they headed to the locker room to examine the quarterback's ribs.

Roethlisberger didn't emerge from the tunnel until the Steelers' second series of the second half. And he stayed on the sidelines until 5 minutes, 20 seconds remained in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' 24-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Why didn't Roethlisberger re-enter the game sooner?

"I was just waiting for coach to tell me when to go," Roethlisberger said.

Coach Mike Tomlin offered this explanation for why backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs remained in the game for the third and most of the fourth quarters:

"(Roethlisberger) probably could've come in a series or two sooner, but we were in a rhythm and flow of the game," Tomlin said. "He was ready to go when he got back out there."

Making his second appearance of the season, Dobbs was 4 of 9 for 24 yards, one interception and a 12.0 passer rating.

The Steelers had three first downs on four series while Dobbs was in the game.

When Roethlisberger returned, he led the Steelers to a go-ahead score, throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 2:55 left.

He finished by completing 25 of 29 attempts for 282 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a 130.2 rating.

Roethlisberger expects to play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

"I would assume so," he said. "I can't predict it, but I would assume so."

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