Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not require a lot of practice time this week to be prepared to face the 49ers on Monday night at Candlestick Park.
Roethlisberg sustained a left ankle sprain Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. He managed to finish the game, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-3 victory. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Roethlisberger sustained a Grade 1 high-ankle sprain (Grade 3 is the most serious). But his status is uncertain for Monday night"He can be ready to play on a limited number of snaps," Tomlin said on a conference call with reporters who cover the 49ers. "At the end of the week when we get into some situational football things, that's going to require some physical preparation in some form or fashion. But we're going to take it day by day. We're always going to be optimistic when it comes to Ben."Tomlin said Roethlisberger requires less on-field practice time to be ready for a game than, perhaps, another player at another position."I think it's different with the quarterback position, particularly when it's a veteran one," Tomlin said. "I think there's more of a chance of that happening at the quarterback position, particularly if you have a veteran one, then say some of the other position like wide receiver, running back or linebacker." What can you take from what the Ravens were able to do against the 49ers' offensive line and Alex Smith in the Thanksgiving game? (The Ravens sacked Smith nine times.)
"We don't look at that game any different than we do any of the other games that they played, from a break-down standpoint. It's just a window into some of the things, maybe, we're capable of. But, ultimately, we play our game and stay within our personality. We have great continuity on defense, and we tend to lean on that, as opposed to what we see others do."Would you think there could be any advantage gleaned from Jim Harbaugh spending a lot of time on the phone with his brother?
"He's a pretty competent and capable coach, as I'm sure (the 49ers) record indicates. So I'm sure they're talking about brotherly things when they talk. . . I really haven't thought about all that. I'm sure those brothers talk. To the level to which they talk, they're better suited to answer that than me. Why don't you guys ask them?"With the extra day before the game, the 49ers are not practicing Wednesday. The Steelers are practicing, keeping with their typical weekly routine.
"Really, it's a non-equation for us. It's a Wednesday. We do what we normally do on a Wednesday. We put base core components of our plan. In terms of how we practice, that's been prescribed by the league a little bit, in terms of whether it's padded or non-padded. We just prepare and ultimately play games and we're a pretty routine outfit. We don't look at some of those things."Do the 49ers change much defensively when Patrick Willis is out of the lineup?
"It doesn't seem that they're changing all that much schematically. Obviously, Patrick Willis is a special player, and I'm sure they prefer to have him. But, at least, schematically, they haven't changed very much at all.What kind of challenge is the 49ers' run defense on your guys up front and running back Rashard Mendenall?
"It's an enormous challenge. I think their statistics speak for themselves. They're first in the league versus the run; they haven't given up a touchdown this year on the ground; they're first in the NFL in red-zone defense; they're first in the league in turnover margin. They're a tough nut to crack, and we respect that. And that's kind of what we're doing this week, in terms of preparing ourselves for that contest. . . . They're a very good style defense, and one to be reckoned with. And we better be prepared and ultimately play well if we want to have a chance to win."How will your defensive scheme look different without James Harrison in there on Monday?
"Schematically, of course, it won't look very different at all. Of course, this isn't the first time we played without James. And this isn't even the first time we played without James this year. So we're going to try to make that a non-issue. Obviously, James is a good player and provides special plays for us, but ultimately the standard will remain the same, and we have some guys who are capable of doing the job and playing to the standard."Where do you stand on the NFL's decision to suspend him for a game?
"That's their judgment, and we have to take the necessary steps to respond to it. How we feel individually is irrelevant."Have you had a chance to look at 49ers rookie Aldon Smith?
"I have, and not only as recently as this week, but as far back as last spring in preparation for the draft. He's a special pass-rusher with unique talent. It's showing itself inside NFL stadiums. He's off to a great start. Obviously, we got to get him blocked when it comes to passing the ball, especially vertically down the field. He's got 10-plus sacks and he's not playing like a rookie."RELATED: Aldon Smith 2011 game logs
If Harrison doesn't play, who would be next in line?
"We got a couple candidates in Jason Worilds, who, of course, has been warm of late and been productive for us, getting an opportunity to play in place of LaMarr Woodley. And LaMarr Woodley appears to be ready to play, but we'll let the week dictate that for us from a practice standpoint. And of course, Lawrence Timmons, who starts for us at inside linebacker, has position flexibility and can play outside some already this year. So we're comfortable with the candidates we have ready to play outside linebacker. We'll get all of those men ready as we prepare this week and make some of those judgments as we get toward the end of the week. . . . It's not a major issue for us. It's something we can sort out as the week unfolds."What have you noticed from afar on the transformation of the 49ers with Jim Harbaugh?
"They're a good fundamental team. Some of the things I mentioned earlier are direct reasons why they're a really good team. They play good in the red zone. They make people kick field goals. They're good against the run. They're first in the league in turnover margin. They're running the ball extremely well on people. They're possessing the ball. I think they average 32 minutes a game, as far as time of possession. All of that is a good formula -- a good fundamental formula for winning, which is what they're doing. They need no endorsement from me."