In a radio interview last week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suggested that the 49ers targeted his injured ankle during the December game between the teams.
He said he thought the 49ers were guilty of doing “some extra” when they came after him, presumably as part of an attempt to get him out of the contest. Roethlisberger made it through the entire game, but, ironically, there were plenty of people wondering whether that was a good thing. A hobbled Roethlisberger threw three interceptions in a 20-3 loss.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com broke down video of the game and found no evidence that the 49ers were doing anything out of bounds in regard to Roethlisberger’s ankle. And now 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, who had 2.5 sacks of Roethlisberger that night with another wiped out by an illegal contact penalty downfield, has weighed in with a denial that there was anything going on but football.
“Our goal was to win the game,” Smith said. “We don’t go out and talk about hurting other players, their ankles or injuries or any of that. We were going out to win the game. The quarterback, he controls the game. So if he got hit, it happens.”
That last part is something to keep in mind. Quarterbacks, injured or not, are always going to be targeted by defenses and, many times, they are going to be hit by those defenses. Roethlisberger might have felt like the 49ers went too far, but he was a target every time he took the field last season and he will be a target every time he takes the field this season.