PITTSBURGH — The big news from the Pittsburgh Steelers was that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was listed as limited in participation during practice Friday, but that likely took place during individual drills because he was nowhere to be found when the session ended and the locker room was open to the media.
Center Maurkice Pouncey (left high-ankle sprain), strong safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring), wideout Emmanuel Sanders (right foot) and linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) did not participate in practice Friday, while wideout Arnaz Battle (hamstring) and cornerback Curtis Brown (knee) were limited along with Roethlisberger (left high-ankle sprain).
Rookie left offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert returned to practice Friday after being out with an illness earlier in the week.
“I was so sick Wednesday night,” Gilbert said. “They thought my appendix burst, so I was in the hospital all day Thursday getting IV fluids and just taking tests. But,
they determined that I had a bowel infection. I was real sick, throwing up and everything just a couple days ago. Now, I’m just taking antibiotics.
“So, I feel a lot better (Friday). I just need to keep taking my meds and get as much rest as possible so I can play Monday night. … I don’t know about Maurkice. He’s not doing too much right now. Just rehabbing, but I know he wants to play. He wants to be out there.
“And if he can do it he’ll play in the game,” Gilbert added. “But it looks like he’ll only get one practice day at the most if he can be out there (Saturday). And I’m not even sure he’ll get that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
If Pouncey can’t play, third-year player Doug Legursky moves from left guard to center. Legursky, who started in this past Super Bowl for Pouncey, has three starts at right guard and five now at left including the past three games. Veteran Trai Essex would replace Legursky at left guard if needed this week.
“I’ve been practicing at left guard all week, so I’m going into this weekend with that mentality,” Essex said. “But they usually tell us beforehand, so I guess that I’ll find out soon enough.
“But I’ve definitely been told that if Maurkice can’t go, I’ll play left guard with Doug (Legursky) moving over to center. I’ve taken some reps at center, too, just in case. And I’ve played every position, so I’m ready for anything.”
Polamalu basically has been invisible to the media this week, staying off the field and away from the locker room. He has spent nearly all his time in rehab to help his sore right hamstring heal for the upcoming game. If Polamalu can’t play, Ryan Mundy would join Ryan Clark as safeties in the Steelers secondary.
“I’m not sure if Troy will be ready, but he’s doing all he can in rehab to try to get ready,” Mundy said. “And we still have some time before the game. So, my job is just to be ready if he can’t go. I’m getting the most out of my practice reps, and I’ll be ready to go if he can’t.
“I’ll be at one safety spot with Ryan, but we could switch off where we play. Usually, I’ll play in the box a little more than him, but we could both do it. I can do everything needed, whether that’s playing in the box or playing deep, and Ryan’s the same way. It’s all a matter of what defense is called.”
It’s widely known that Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison won’t be available for the 49ers game because his suspension was upheld by the NFL, so second-year player Jason Worilds gets the starting nod on the left side opposite LaMarr Woodley. After missing four of the past five games with a hamstring injury and missing nearly all of the one he started against Cleveland, Woodley has practiced on a full-time basis all week and is expected to play.
The inside linebackers will be Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior.
“It doesn’t matter if I agree with the NFL’s decision or not, because that’s the way it is,” Farrior said. “So, we have to adjust and have to play within the rules they made up and the stuff that they’re going to call. We have to be really careful how we approach it, and we’re going to have to deal with it as we go.
“I’m sure James (Harrison) will be more careful to play within the guidelines of the game. Hopefully, he’ll have a good mindset when he comes back and he’s ready to go out and just play football. That was his first incident, but I guess they were looking at his history, the whole body of work for him. So, we understand why they did it. We might not agree with it, but it is what it is.”
Clark was somewhat less forgiving with his comments.
“I don’t care about the league’s message anymore,” Clark said. “It’s about us playing the type of football that’s going to help us win championships despite who gets suspended, despite who gets fined. We’re going to play within the rules. We’re going to stop fighting this battle. That’s what this is about. Like I said on Wednesday, my disappointment is for James.
“It’s been wildly speculated that I’ll be next. I’m watching ESPN, and they’re talking and my name gets thrown into that. For me, it’s not my concern. I focus on making plays for this football team. That’s my No. 1 priority. When I play well and help this team win, they decide to keep me on the team and I get to feed my family. Nobody pays me in New York.
“That’s just the way the game is now,” Clark added. “Theyâre trying to make players that play with a physical nature extinct. They want everybody to average 35 points a game, and we have to find a way for that not to happen. Defense still matters to us here. We feel like we have to play good defense to win. We definitely have to find a way within the rules to do it because we want our best 11 out there and in this situation we donât have them.”
Harrison is eligible to return to the Steelers practice facility Tuesday.