PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expects Ben Roethlisberger back under center Sunday against Cincinnati.
Roethlisberger isn't so sure just yet.
The two-time Super Bowl winner is playing it safe in his return after missing four games with a sprained knee and a bruised leg, saying Wednesday he's `'not going to get his hopes up'' about playing Sunday.
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Roethlisberger plans to be in the lineup against the undefeated Bengals in a key AFC North showdown, and he practiced in full Wednesday. But he's also exercising caution after experiencing some discomfort in his knee following a practice late last week.
''I think it was more just a pain and inflammation setback,'' Roethlisberger said. ''I don't think it was an injury-type of a setback. I just put an extra, heavy load on it and paid for it that night with achiness and inflammation.''
That's fine by Roethlisberger, who practiced in a limited capacity for three days last week and was listed as questionable leading into the game at Kansas City. He plans to wear a brace on the injured left knee for the first time in his career Sunday. Roethlisberger has adjusted to the feel by wearing the brace to work out, but he doesn't anticipate any in-game mobility limitations because of the injury.
''I think if there's a restriction, I shouldn't be out there,'' Roethlisberger said. ''You can't afford to go out there if you're restricted in any way. That's why I don't want to think about the injury, what I've had, what I'm wearing and things like that. I just want to go out there and play football.''
Roethlisberger reported no pain Wednesday morning, but still wants to see how his knee feels after a couple days of practice prior to Sunday's game.
''That's why I said that we have to take this one day at a time,'' Roethlisberger said. ''It's why I'm not getting my hopes up for Sunday. I'm going to get my hopes up for today, go out and see how it goes.''
Roethlisberger was initially disappointed with the setback last week, but doctors reassured the Steelers' franchise quarterback didn't cause further damage.
''It's simple overuse,'' Roethlisberger said. ''The inflammation, the swelling, that's naturally going to happen. Once I got over the initial shock of worrying that something more happened, I was fine.''
Roethlisberger enjoyed a career year in 2014, helping the Steelers finish as the No. 2-ranked offense.
They picked up where they left off this year as the Steelers averaged 32 points and more than 450 yards per game before Roethlisberger went down.
At the time of his injury, Roethlisberger ranked first in yards per pass attempt, passing plays of 25 yards or more, and had two 350-yard passing games in three weeks. He was also second in the league with a 75.3 completion percentage and third in passing yards.
''He's a special quarterback,'' wide receiver Antonio Brown said. ''Anytime you have a guy of that caliber, it rejuvenates, revitalizes and gets everyone excited.''
Roethlisberger returns when the Steelers have all their offensive weapons available at the skill position.
Brown led the league in receiving yards before Roethlisberger went down and Le'Veon Bell currently ranks fifth in rushing. Martavis Bryant, who missed the first four games after violating the league's substance abuse policy, has three touchdowns in two games and 11 scores in 12 contests as a pro.
''I'm excited because we still haven't had everybody on the field at the same time,'' Bell said. ''It's going to be great to have all the skill guys back. Now, we're going to find out how good we can be with all of our guys.''
NOTES: Steelers LB Terence Garvin (knee), CB William Gay (shoulder) and DE Stephon Tuitt (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. ... S Will Allen (ankle) and QB Michael Vick (hamstring) were limited in practice.
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