In Ben They Should Trust

Mike Prisuta just returned from the West Coast and filed this notebook column on the Steelers' loss:

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you want to rage against Mike Tomlin in response to the opportunity lost at Candlestick Park, taking a timeout into the locker room at the conclusion of the first half would be a reasonable place to start.

The Steelers' game management in such situations remains below the line. And whether it's acknowledged or not, nothing ever seems to be done about it.

The decision to leave Ben Roethlisberger in and exposed long after the issue had been decided was also indefensible. Roethlisberger, of course, wanted to stay in. But when two touchdowns and two two-point conversions still won't be enough to tie the game, and less than six minutes remain, it's clearly time for the head coach to remind the hobbled quarterback about the quarterback's place in the head coach-quarterback relationship.

But the decision to start Roethlisberger shouldn't be second-guessed.

Given what was available for the taking and the available alternatives to Roethlisberger, it was worth a shot.

Home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs, something the Steelers could have gone a long way toward securing with a win over the 49ers, was important enough to the Steelers that they needed to succeed or fail toward that end with Roethlisberger leading the charge.

That he was leading it at less than 100 percent didn't matter.

It's become obvious by now that the staff maintains Roethlisberger at whatever percent is still better than a healthy Charlie Batch.

And since Dennis Dixon is clearly off the radar, Tomlin made the only decision he could make.

The loss stung and might yet for some time if the Steelers wind up as a Wild Card. But it would sting a little more had their franchise quarterback watched from the sideline.

Maybe Batch could have played a more conservative, mistake-free game and won; we'll never know. But we've seen enough from Roethlisberger amid such circumstances to have expected better from him, and to expect better the next time.

* Lawrence Timmons came off the field three times on third downs during the 49ers' first two possessions, once for a six-DBs alignment and twice for five-DBs sets.

Cortez Allen came on each time Timmons came off, which is great for Allen. But Timmons isn't going to become the NFL Defensive Player of the Year any time soon if he morphs into a two-down player.

Where he's been all season -- it wasn't covering Vernon Davis on Monday night -- remains a mystery.

* "Holding, No. 79 offense."

Well, Trai Essex was playing Chris Kemoeatu's old position.

* Part of the pre-game ambiance included Steve Young throwing passes to Jerry Rice on the field at Candlestick Park.

Imagine Terry Bradshaw doing that with Lynn Swann or John Stallworth at Heinz Field and you'll get an appreciation for how the gesture was received here by the locals.

Now imagine Bradshaw, Swann and Stallworth doing their jog down memory lane at Three Rivers Stadium and appreciate once again the Steelers having moved on to Heinz Field.

* Lotta memories at Candlestick.

But that said it's still a dump, and as Monday night's power outages proved no longer acceptable as an NFL venue.

Maybe the NFL ought to do something about that as it ponders whether to fine or suspend Roethlisberger for wearing shoes that didn't match.

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