The aid of a walking boot didn't stop quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from walking with a pronounced limp at Steelers headquarters Monday.
But the prevailing sentiment in the Steelers' locker room is that the two-time Super Bowl winner will play next week in San Francisco. In addition, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey said he will play Monday night against the 49ers.
Like Roethlisberger, Pouncey sustained a high-ankle sprain last Thursday night in the Steelers' 14-3 win over the Browns. Unlike Roethlisberger, he didn't return to the game after getting hurt.
"We're both fine," said Pouncey, who missed the Super Bowl last season because of the same injury he is now nursing. "We'll be all right to go on Monday Night Football."
Roethlisberger, who played admirably after sustaining the first high-ankle sprain of his career last week, was not at practice Monday. It remains to be seen if Roethlisberger will try to do anything Wednesday — the players are off Tuesday — or if he will even be out of the walking boot he has worn since last week.
But his teammates said following the Steelers' first practice since last week that they have learned to never count out Roethlisberger.
When asked if he expects to see Roethlisberger on the field Monday, inside linebacker James Farrior said, "Yeah, if I had to guess. He's a gritty competitor, and he wants to play and wants to win. He knows he gives this team the best chance to win."
Said wide receiver Hines Ward, "Hopefully him coming back (against the Browns) doesn't jeopardize him losing any more games from this point on. Me knowing Ben, he'll be out there competing and fighting his tail off just to be out there."
Ward knows as well as anyone what Roethlisberger will have to play through the rest of the season.
He sustained a high-ankle sprain in an Oct. 23 game in Arizona, and the 14th-year veteran said he is still feeling the effects of the injury.
"That's worse than a break," Ward said. "It's just going to put a lot of pressure on our offensive line to give him more time and for him to get the ball out of his hands quick."
Running backs and wide receivers are among those who are more adversely affected by high-ankle sprains, because they have to make cuts.
High-ankle sprains also make it difficult on offensive linemen, such as Pouncey, who battle for leverage after every snap.
Pouncey didn't play in the Super Bowl two weeks after spraining his left ankle in the AFC Championship game last January. He has less time to recover now, but Pouncey said having the same injury to the same ankle actually will aid in his recovery.
"It's a lot better that I hurt it last year, so now it can heal a lot quicker," said Pouncey, who didn't practice yesterday. "It's not as swelled up, and I can do a little bit of something on it. It just needs the right rest and right rehab. I feel good."
Pouncey had been in a walking boot, but he said he no longer needs the extra protection.
Left tackle Max Starks said he expects Pouncey and Roethlisberger to wear football cleats Monday night in San Francisco.
"I've been here way too long to count out a center or count out a quarterback in this league," Starks said. "(Roethlisberger is) a tough dude and a consummate competitor. That's one of the things that I'm always amazed by him. I'm glad he's my teammate."