PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger spent Monday night gingerly limping up and down the field at Candlestick Park on one leg not caring, to be honest, how he'd feel the next day.
Turns out, he was pleasantly surprised.
"I didn't think I'd be able to walk," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "It actually feels a lot better than I thought it would."
Good enough, Roethlisberger hopes, to play against St. Louis on Saturday.
Despite speculation the Steelers (10-4) might sit him for both of the team's final games to make sure he's healthy when the playoffs begin, Roethlisberger insisted he's doing everything he can to help keep Pittsburgh's hopes for an AFC North title alive.
"I've said many times I want to go and I'll try and be ... ready to go," he said.
Roethlisberger passed for 330 yards but also turned over the ball four times in a 20-3 loss to San Francisco while playing with his badly sprained left ankle in a brace he equated to a prosthetic limb.
He took the blame for the turnovers and allowed the injury forced him to modify the way he throws because he was concerned about taking a bad step.
"If you go back and look, sometimes there were guys around my feet and I didn't get as much depth on the drop," Roethlisberger said. "I just couldn't step into some of the throws and that, I think, was a factor a little bit."
Despite the limited playbook and an inability to escape pressure Roethlisberger doesn't blame coach Mike Tomlin for throwing his franchise quarterback onto the field against one of the league's best defenses.
Pittsburgh had a chance to take control of the AFC playoff picture with a victory. Roethlisberger is in the midst of arguably his finest season despite a series of health issues, from a sprained left foot to a broken right thumb to the gruesome sprained ankle he suffered in a win over Cleveland on Dec. 8.
"I don't think (Tomlin) should be criticized for that," Roethlisberger said. "I'm glad he let me go out there and play. I wish I could have played better and if I would have I don't think people would have said a thing."
Tomlin approached Roethlisberger about coming out of the game with the Steelers trailing by 17 points late in the fourth quarter and Roethlisberger shot him down.
"I'm not saying I talked (Tomlin) out of taking me out ... but I wasn't going to quit," he said. "He kind of asked me, 'You want to come out?' I said nope."
Roethlisberger, linebacker LaMarr Woodley (strained right hamstring), running back Mewelde Moore (sprained left knee) and cornerback Curtis Brown (knee) all missed practice on Wednesday.
It's uncertain whether Roethlisberger will practice at all this week given the short turnaround. He participated in just one practice in the run-up to the San Francisco game, but doesn't think the lack of prep time was an issue.
"It was hard to get in there and do some things, but I still take the blame for the loss and not playing well has nothing to do with the preparation," he said. "It's just one of those days where I had a bad day."
Veteran Charlie Batch will start if Roethlisberger can't. The Rams (2-12) have struggled to score points this season and Batch has been serviceable while filling in for Roethlisberger through the years.
Still, with so much at stake Roethlisberger isn't willing to concede anything. Pittsburgh can still win the AFC North and get a home playoff game if the Steelers win their last two and Baltimore (10-4) loses at least once.
Roethlisberger would prefer not to watch the playoff push from the sideline.
"I want to get the reps," he said. "I want to work on little things we need to work on to get ready for January football."
While Roethlisberger played last week, center Maurkice Pouncey took himself out while dealing with the exact same injury.
Pouncey said the extra rest paid off and he's hopeful to play on Saturday. The injury is the same one that kept Pouncey from playing in the Super Bowl loss to Green Bay in February, though this one is not nearly as severe.
"There's a big-time difference with pain tolerance and me moving around," Pouncey said. "I'm feeling pretty good. I'm going through some individual (drills) and we'll see how it goes."