Players were told during the week that Roethlisberger and Bell would sit out the game and that Landry Jones would start at quarterback, the sources said.
The Steelers have been plagued by high-profile injuries at playoff time in recent years and have struggled to get Roethlisberger, Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown on the field at the same time in January.
Brown already has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a calf injury he suffered in Week 15, and while the Steelers hope to have him back for their playoff game in two weeks, they want to make sure they don’t risk injury to either of their other two major offensive stars as they head into the playoffs.
The Steelers are assured of a first-round bye in this year’s AFC playoffs. They could still get the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win Sunday over the winless Browns and a loss by the New England Patriots against the New York Jets, but apparently that chance isn’t significant enough to warrant risking injury to their starting quarterback or their do-everything running back in a Week 17 game.
Roethlisberger has started all 15 games at quarterback for the Steelers this year, the first time since 2014 and only the third time since 2008 that he’s made it through an entire regular season without missing a game due to injury.