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Wednesday, May 9, 2012
On Big Ben's suggestion 49ers targeted him

By Mike Sando

Ben Roethlisberger did not accuse the San Francisco 49ers of outright dirty play against him in Week 15 last season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback did drop a hint Wednesday when Dan Patrick asked him to recall the most recent time an opponent took shots at his head, knees or ankles.

"Um, wow, that's tough," Roethlisberger told Patrick, according to Matt Maiocco. "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 ...

"Now, obviously, I did have the ankle [injury] and I was playing, so there was kind of a bull's-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."

Lest this little implication get out of hand unnecessarily, I went back and watched every Steelers offensive play from that game. The stats crew credited the 49ers with eight quarterback hits. Most were straightforward. Defenders were not twisting Roethlisberger's lower body, rolling over onto his sore ankle or stepping on him blatantly.

Stretches lasting 15-plus plays passed without the 49ers making any contact with Roethlisberger. They did get pressure on him late in the game. Aldon Smith did hit Roethlisberger in the lower body at one point, but the hit appeared routine.

Smith and NaVorro Bowman had free shots on Roethlisberger late in the game. They did not exploit those opportunities at additional expense to Roethlisberger. Bowman specifically had an opportunity to fall on Roethlisberger on the Steelers' final play, but he did not.

Roethlisberger would know better than most whether an opponent was going out of its way to hurt him. Nothing jumped out as suspicious when I watched the game, however.