The 49ers decided early last week to prepare to face injured Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Apparently, it was a smart decision.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported tonight that Roethlisberger showed enough movement during the team's Saturday's practice to start Monday's game. Roethlisberger sustained a Grade 1 high-ankle sprain Dec. 8 against Cleveland. He returned to play in the game, but his ability to move in the pocket was severely restricted.
The stakes are high for both the Steelers and 49ers. Because the Ravens lost to San Diego on Sunday, Pittsburgh has a chance not only to take sole possession of first place of the AFC North but also to ultimately win the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Steelers likely would have to win their last three games to accomplish that.
The 49ers, meanwhile, are trying to hang onto the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which comes with a first-round bye and the right to host a divisional round playoff game. It appears as if they will have their starting left tackle, Joe Staley, for the game. CSN Bay Area reported that Staley, as expected, passed his final neurological test Sunday after leaving last week's game with a concussion. Staley was lined up with the first-team offense during Saturday's walk-through.
Both teams promise to be without their star linebackers. Pittsburgh outside linebacker James Harrison has been suspended for the game. San Francisco inside linebacker Patrick Willis hasn't practiced since sustaining a hamstring strain on Dec. 4. Willis is listed as questionable.
-- Matt Barrows