|Smith makes a good point: 'The quarterback, he controls the game. So if he got hit, it happens.' (Getty Images)|
Last week, during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hinted that the 49ers may have targeted his bum ankle during a Week 15 matchup. To his credit, Big Ben wasn't complaining, just answering a question.
"Um, wow, that's tough," he said at the time. "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 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."
Roethlisberger had a horrible game; he didn't throw a touchdown, had three picks and a lost fumble in a 20-3 loss.
In the wake of Big Ben's conversation with Patrick, ESPN.com's Mike Sando looked at every play from that game and found no evidence of San Francisco players intentionally aiming for Roethlisberger's ankle.
And Aldon Smith, the then-rookie who terrorized Big Ben for most of that night (he ended up with 2.5 sacks), agrees: the 49ers didn't have any agenda other than to harass the quarterback.
“Our goal was to win the game,” Smith said according to the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows. “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.”
Barrows notes that the 49ers' defense was penalized three times in the game, and none were of the flagrant-foul variety.
Also worth pointing out: when Smith says that "if (the QB) got hit, it happens," it's another way of saying: "Yeah, this is what happens when you stand in the pocket for eight seconds trying to make a big play. Especially if you're already on a bad wheel."
That's been Roethlisberger's M.O. during his career: turning broken plays into big gains but at the cost of taking a beating. Week 15 of the 2011 season was just another example of that. He was just much less effective after suffering a high-ankle sprain 10 days before.
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