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Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) stands on the sidelines against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011.

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is optimistic he'll play Saturday when the Steelers host St. Louis.

Roethlisberger says Wednesday his injured left ankle is no worse after throwing 45 times in a 20-3 loss to San Francisco on Monday night.

The quarterback also defends coach Mike Tomlin's decision to let him play despite a painful high ankle sprain that limited Roethlisberger's mobility. Roethlisberger says Tomlin approached him about sitting out the last few minutes with the game out of reach, but he told his coach he wanted to stay in.

Center Maurkice Pouncey, who sat out the 49ers game with a left high ankle sprain of his own, believes he will play. Pouncey adds he told coaches he couldn't go against San Francisco and thinks the week off helped him immensely.