The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their first Saturday practice of the regular season at their South Side facility as they finished their work week in preparation for their Monday Night Football appearance in San Francisco.
All eyes were on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he went through a "limited" practice on his sore left ankle (high ankle sprain). Ben has taken a policy of not speaking to the media throughout the year on the final day of the week's practice, so he did not speak about his status. The team's official injury report lists him as "questionable," although a few teammates I spoke to expressed optimism he would be able to play even if not at full strength and mobility.
That could mean a lot of shotgun or 'pistol' offense for the Steelers on Monday night, something the team is familiar with as Roethlisberger played the last half of 2010 with a broken bone in his right foot. In both cases, the team's strategy appears to be a casting of the foot in some sense with tape and bracing. This year, however, it will be Roethlisberger's lead foot as opposed to his plant foot.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace talked about the situation with his QB after practice, saying "Ben has done it before when his foot was messed up, I don't see that being a problem. It doesn't matter if he's in the gun or not for the receivers. From his point, I don't know how his foot's feeling. Whatever we need to help him we'll definitely do. We're still going to run our same plays, he's just in the 'gun. I don't see Ben changing his game. If he's able to play he's going to try to play as normal as he can."
In other injury news, safety Troy Polamalu also went through a limited practice with his hamstring strain, the first work he's gotten for the week. Troy said, "I rehabbed all week, was able to practice a little bit today, and we'll see what Coach Tomlin has to say. We have a short week next week." Listed as "probable," it appears Polamalu will give it a go on Monday.
It's a homecoming of sorts anytime Troy heads back to the left coast, and he admitted he has purchased some 40 tickets for friends and family out of pocket. "My wife and I always joke, we're blessed to be away from California. Every time we go out west we've got to get a lot of tickets," Troy said.
On the offensive line, center Maurkice Pouncey has been ruled out with his high-ankle sprain, meaning Doug Legursky will make his second NFL start at center and first start their since Super Bowl XLV. Legursky has played there this season during games, however, when Pouncey has left due to both injury and illness. All told now, Legursky has started 7 games at right guard, 5 at left guard, and now 2 at center in his three NFL seasons.
Meanwhile, 7-year man Trai Essex is set to make his first ever NFL start at LG as he has surpassed Chris Kemoeatu on the depth chart. Essex has also been a flexible part, starting 21-games at right guard since 2009 in addition to 6 at left tackle over his NFL career.
Steelers special team standouts Arnaz Battle and Curtis Brown are also listed as questionable for the game with hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. Battle expressed confidence to me that he will be ready to go, and he eagerly anticipates his return to San Francisco where he spent seven seasons playing for the 49ers.
Listen in to TribLive Radio beginning Monday at 9am for much more on the Monday Night Fotoball matchup between the Steelers and the 49ers. Guy Junker and John Steigerwald join me from 9am to 1pm, and you can listen right here at 'sportstalk.triblive.com'.