|Baltimore's loss to San Diego means Pittsburgh could end up with the No. 1 seed in the AFC. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
It is, as they say, go time. For the Steelers, that means quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is set to start Monday night versus the 49ers even though he suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Browns 11 days ago. Several teammates suggested as much to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Dale Grdnic Saturday, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette'd Gerry Dulac tweeted similar news Sunday evening.
There was some speculation leading up to the game that Big Ben might sit this week, get healthy, and prepare for the playoffs. Pittsburgh clinched a spot in the postseason with Tennessee's loss to Indianapolis Sunday, and since the Steelers trailed the Ravens in the division, it appeared that their road back to the Super Bowl would have to come on the road as a wild-card team.
But that all changed Sunday night after the Chargers dismantled the Ravens on national television, and in the process changed the balance of power in the AFC North. As of Monday morning, the Steelers were atop the division, and if they beat the 49ers and win their remaining regular-season games against the Rams and Browns, they would also be the AFC's No. 1 seed. That's how good the top of the conference has been this season; a win or a loss could be the difference between a No. 5 seed and a No. 1 seed (and the difference between a first-round bye and facing the Broncos in a wild-card matchup).
The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Join James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason as they break down this upcoming matchup.
Baltimore has beaten Pittsburgh twice this season but their inexplicable road collapses against lesser opponents have been their demise. The Ravens' four losses have come courtesy of the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks and Chargers -- teams that are a combined 25-31 (and none have a winning record).
Roethlisberger was injured during the second quarter of the Steelers' Week 14 game against the Browns. At the time, he thought his "leg was broken," and spent most of the next week and a half in a walking boot. But Big Ben is known for his resiliency; his eight-year career has been highlighted by amazing plays unparalleled toughness. From a Haloti Ngata paw to the face to what he managed to do a week and a half ago on one good wheel, Roethlisberger's tolerance for pain exceeds that of a normal human.
So it's not surprising that he'll be on the field against San Francisco. Just how effective he will be, however, could determine if the Ravens' fall from grace is a 24-hour thing or if it means, in the words of linebacker Terrell Suggs, "We still can get our first-round bye and play at home but we need a little help now. We have to go the long way. Yeah, it's a reality check. We got our ass kicked, and now it's back to the drawing board."
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