- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - 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.

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