No visual proof that 49ers targeted Big Ben

Aldon Smith had 2.5 sacks of Ben Roethlisberger in the Week 15 game in San Francisco. Kyle Terada/US Presswire

While Ben Roethlisberger didn't accuse the 49ers of putting a bounty on him, the Steelers quarterback did suggest that San Francisco was targeting his injured ankle.

When asked about the last time he felt a team was going after his knees, ankles or head, Roethlisberger said on "The Dan Patrick Show," via Comcast SportsNet Bay Area: "Um, wow, that's tough. I don't really complain about that stuff, either. But I think when we played San Fran, I felt like there were some things going on, some extra ... "

Roethlisberger added, "Now, obviously, I did have the ankle and I was playing, so there was kind of a bulls-eye on there anyway. But for the most part, guys play tough and you go into a game expecting it. I expect to be tougher than them."

I attended that Dec. 20 game in San Francisco and don't remember anything close to a cheap shot on Roethlisberger in that game. The 49ers weren't penalized or fined for any illegal hits in that game.

My thorough colleague from the NFC West, Mike Sando, went even further. In his blog post on this subject, he reviewed every Pittsburgh offensive play from that game and saw nothing that bordered on dirty play. Roethlisberger was hit eight times by the 49ers, and Sando said defenders didn't twist the quarterback's lower body or roll onto his sprained ankle. So, unless the 49ers went after Roethlisberger when the lights went out at Candlestick Park that night, it's difficult to figure out what Roethlisberger was talking about when he said "there were some things going on."

If Roethlisberger did suspect the 49ers were going after his ankle, this is another reason why he shouldn't have been allowed to finish the game. Roethlisberger was still on the field late in the fourth quarter when the Steelers trailed by 17 points. I questioned the decision that night on exposing him to further injury. I really question it now after hearing Roethlisberger's concerns.

Roethlisberger said after that game that he didn't hurt his ankle more by playing in that game. He did, however, miss the next game against St. Louis, which was played five days later (it was a Christmas Eve game that followed a Monday night one).

He never mentioned any questionable hits in his press conference following the 20-3 loss in December, when reporters repeatedly asked him about his injured ankle. He seemed frustrated but not angry after a performance that included three interceptions and a fourth-quarter fumble. "I was probably the best 49er tonight," Roethlisberger said after the game.