PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger's injured right ankle — unlike the lighting at Candlestick Park — held up Monday night against San Francisco
The same can't be said of his team's chances of grabbing the top spot in the AFC playoffs.
Roethlisberger passed for 330 yards but also threw three interceptions and fumbled once while basically playing on one leg in a 20-3 loss to the 49ers, a frustrating end to a weird night in which the Steelers let control of the AFC playoff picture slip through their fingers.
Instead of sitting atop the conference with two weeks to go in the regular season, the Steelers (10-4) need to win both of their remaining games and one loss each by Baltimore, New England and Houston to make sure they don't have to leave Heinz Field in January.
"Yes, we had the ball in our court and we dropped it a little bit," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "Having home field is a help but it is not everything. We can still go on the road and win."
Maybe, but the Steelers haven't showed it this season. They're a pedestrian 4-3 on the road, with each of their losses coming against playoff-bound teams.
Though the Steelers are quick to point out they won three games on the road on the way to the 2006 Super Bowl title, this group has some pressing needs to address before the playoffs even start.
Roethlisberger limped his way through four frustrating quarters without further damaging his badly sprained right ankle. He also didn't look crisp — his three interceptions were on poorly underthrown passes, with all three coming in San Francisco territory.
"I was probably the best 49er," Roethlisberger said after the Steelers were held without a touchdown for the first time in over two years.
Despite his quarterback's mobility issues, coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he never considered pulling Roethlisberger late with the game seemingly out of reach.
"He's a competitor and I'm not going to deny those guys those opportunities," Tomlin said. "I think his teammates have an appreciation for that and that's how we're built."
Roethlisberger insisted afterward he got by on "two Advils, two Tylenols" and a hefty dose of adrenaline. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday but will try to play Saturday against reeling St. Louis (2-12) even if he says he's only "5 percent."
"I want to be out there. It's their call to say yes or no," Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers should get a boost from the return of linebacker James Harrison, who sat out while serving a one-game suspension following a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland's Colt McCoy on Dec. 8.
The defense held its own, allowing 287 total yards, but failed to create a turnover, forcing the Steelers to go the length of the field to score. Pittsburgh had little trouble moving the ball, converting 8 of 14 third downs, but let numerous scoring opportunities slip away.
The Steelers will be without Mewelde Moore, who hurt his knee and is out indefinitely. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is nursing sore ribs while linebacker LaMarr Woodley's strained right hamstring is fatigued but otherwise OK.
Pittsburgh will need its stars if it wants to return to the Super Bowl after the lights dimmed on any chance of getting homefield advantage.
"We are not worried about top seed or anything else," linebacker James Farrior said. "We have two games left in the season and we want to finish up strong."