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Ben Roethlisberger expected to start on 'MNF' ... but should he?

December 19, 2011 |  8:45 am

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Ben Roethlisberger will start in Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Normally that would be great news for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, especially since the outcome of this game could very well determine whether the team reaches the playoffs as the AFC's top seed or as a wild-card team.

But the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback has been battling a Grade I ankle sprain all week and did not practice until Saturday, and even then it was on a limited basis. Roethlisberger suffered the injury late in the second quarter of the Steelers' last game, against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8, but was able to hobble through the second half and lead his team to a 14-3 victory.

But the Steelers (10-3) aren't playing the lowly Browns this time. The 49ers are 10-3 and in the midst of a battle for playoff seeding as well. And a key to Roethlisberger's game is mobility, something that will be severely limited with the injury.

Another factor to consider -- and undoubtedly the Steelers have -- is the risk of further injury. While it would be nice to have a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, the Steelers probably will be going nowhere pretty fast without Roethlisberger's services.

If the Steelers can get through this game with Roethlisberger still intact, they may be able to win the next two -- against the St. Louis Rams (2-12) and the Browns (4-10) -- with backup quarterback Charlie Batch, giving Roethlisberger potentially three weeks to rest up for a playoff run.

What do you think? Is it worth the risk for Roethlisberger to play against the 49ers? Vote in the poll, then leave a comment explaining why you voted the way you did.

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-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Ben Roethlisberger. Credit: Doug Kapustin / McClatchy Tribune

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