Gerry Dulac is reporting tonight that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is now expected to start Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park with his injured left ankle. Dulac reports that the decision to start Roethlisberger had nothing to with the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night loss to the San Diego Chargers.
The loss by both the Ravens and the Houston Texans on Sunday put the Steelers in control of their own destiny as far as the number one overall seed in the AFC goes. With that seed comes home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Roehtlisberger is recovering from a Grade 1 ankle sprain suffered in week 14 against the Cleveland Browns and he didn\'t practice all week until Saturday. Even when he did work on Saturday, it was on a very limited basis, but many of his teammates said that he looked like he would be able to play following the practice.
Even though the Roethlisberger looks on track to play, the Steelers will still be without center Maurkice Pouncey, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and linebacker James Harrison. Pouncey, like Roethlisberger, suffered a Grade 1 ankle sprain against the Browns, but he was not able to practice all week and thus ruled out on the Saturday injury report. Sanders is still trying to get his right foot back to 100% and he too was ruled out on Saturday after not being able to practice all week. Harrison will miss the game after being suspended this past Tuesday for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in week 14. Harrison appealed the suspension immediately, but it was upheld by arbitrator Ted Cottrell.
The Steelers will have linebacker LaMarr Woodley back this week after he missed the last two games due to his problem-some hamstring. Woodley figures to start and second-year linebacker Jason Worilds will flip over to the right side to make his first career start at right outside linebacker in place of Harrison. Doug Legursky will start at center in place of the injured Pouncey and Trai Essex will make his first start at left guard this year. Kickoff time Monday night is 8:30 p.m. EST.