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SportsPulse: NFL insider Jarrett Bell on how the football world responded to President Trump's comments on national anthem protests, as well as how Week 3 of the season was full of upsets and wild finishes. USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) takes the field before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.(Photo: Mike Dinovo, USA TODAY Sports)

Ben Roethlisberger said he isn’t on board with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem before Sunday’s 23-17 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears.

After Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t want players to feel forced into taking a stance, the quarterback wrote Monday that he wishes “we approached it differently” and that he believes the playing of the song is not the right time for any protest.

“I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday,” Roethlisberger wrote in a statement posted to his official website. “The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.

“As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.”

In a news conference with defensive end Cameron Heyward on Monday, Roethlisberger clarified that he wanted to be on the field.

“I just felt like I wish that we would have been on the field,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s just my personal feeling on it. I’m entitled to that opinion. That’s what’s great about this country and what the troops are for. I wish we could have stood out there. What was important was being united as well, and that’s what we showed. We showed unity. Because that’s what we need in this country right now. There’s so much division. We need to stay together.”

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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger released a statement on Monday saying he wished his team approached the national anthem protest differently. Time

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Tomlin and several Steelers coaches stood on the sidelines during the anthem while players stayed back. Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger and graduate of West Point, stood outside of the tunnel with his hand over his heart during the song. Villanueva later said he did not intend to defy Tomlin and that he was only remained outside the tunnel because the anthem began before he could make it back inside.

Before the game, Tomlin explained the rationale for the move to CBS Sports’ Jamie Erdahl.

“We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches,” Tomlin said. “We’re not participating in the anthem today  not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.

“People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to.”

The decision followed President Trump’s repeated calls for owners and the NFL to take action against players who choose not to stand during the national anthem.

Trump claimed at a rally in Pittsburgh last October that Roethlisberger “is a friend of mine.” But Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he would not campaign for Trump or speak at any events because he did not want to get involved in politics.

“I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality,” Roethlisberger wrote to close his Monday statement. “Moving forward, I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.”

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

PHOTOS: NFL players’ protests

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