The 49ers and Steelers released their second injury reports yesterday afternoon, and with a Monday Night Football showdown looming, we will get a final one later today. In the meantime, we likely have a pretty good idea of what players will be up on Monday and which players are likely to be inactive.
The 49ers injury report did not change from yesterday as both Patrick Willis and Joe Staley did not participate. They both spent practice working out on side fields and not with the full team contingent. At this point it would be quite surprising to see either one active on Monday. It is possible one or both could have a resurgence in practice later today, but the odds are slim.
Frank Gore remains off the injury report, which bodes well for his playing time on Monday. Earlier in the week, Coach Harbaugh indicated Gore was a little banged up, but he also said the game plan is what led to Gore only getting ten carries and not his injury. Greg Roman chatted before practice and was as evasive as is expected when discussing Gore (transcript after the jump). I honestly do not know what to expect from Gore on Monday in terms of carries. Nothing about this offense is particularly predictable at this point, so I suppose we'll just have to wait until Monday to see what Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh roll out.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - December 16, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
"Getting ready to play a really good Pittsburgh team. They're ranked really high against the run and pass. Starting with their D-Line, really start with their nose tackle there in the middle, Casey Hampton has been there for a long time, knows the defense. He's very stout, everything kind of runs around him. [Steelers DE Brett] Keisel, their inside three, are real stout players. Very well-coordinated. Obviously 34 scheme, very active linebackers. [Steelers LB James] Farrior is a tremendous blitzer, seems like he's been playing forever. I don't think he gets old. I don't think he ages, still playing at a high level. Then, secondary, it starts with [Steelers S Troy] Polamalu. He's one of the premier safeties in the league and has been for a long time. When you look at their corners, they're playing at a very high level, starting with Ike Taylor. [William] Gay is playing at a high level as well. So, they're a complete defense, well-coordinated, obviously. We've got our work cut out for us. We're really excited about it. Had a great day at practice yesterday and looking to have a better one today. Any questions?"
Are you more concerned with their pass rush or their rush defense?
"You've got to be concerned about everything against Pittsburgh. I'm concerned about everything, rush defense is very good. They've got answers for everything. Pass rush is generated by their outside guys or through pressure, blitzes."
Does it help you, in terms of game planning, to face them right after facing Arizona? Are they fairly similar?
"Somewhat similar, not totally, Arizona's a little different. Pittsburgh's had those guys in the system for quite a while. Arizona, I wouldn't say, is quite as far along. But, very similar in many of the things they do."
You mentioned Farrior. Seems like you guys have been susceptible to blitz's up the middle recently. Would you agree with that? If so, what's going wrong when that happens?
"If you're playing Pittsburgh, you better be able to block blitzes up the middle because they've been doing it better than anybody for a long time, they still are. A lot of different things could happen. It depends what kind of protection you're in. Who's responsible for each blitz, each protection. A lineman might be responsible for it; a running back might be responsible for it. There might be an adjustment required pre-snap if you sense the blitz is coming. It really varies play to play."
There's no common thread to what has been happening to your line?
"We've had some looseness on a couple occasions on the interior blitzes. Some we've got to get corrected."
When you look at the Ravens game and this game last week, how much of that was brought on by road stadiums and not being able to hear or communicate?
"It's a good point. There might be something to it. But really, it doesn't matter. You've got to be able to operate when it's quiet or loud. Really, whether or not that's a factor, bottom line is we've got to get it executed."
Will getting to the line more quickly help out in that regard?
"It might, it might not. If you get to the line early, the defense gets to see your formation early. The upside is you get to see the defense and see those guys early. We try to mix up when we get to the line of scrimmage in different situations. We try to emphasize that every week."
It seems you're not doing so much as the heavy package, the hammer package. Any reason for that?
"When are you talking about?"
When you bring in NT Isaac Sopoaga and you have the extra lineman. There doesn't seem to be as much of that in the last few weeks.
"I see. It's week-to-week. If there's an advantage to bring in big people, you bring them in. If you don't think there is, then you don't. It's always available though."
You guys went up 19-7 in the third quarter. A lot of us were thinking ‘OK, they're going to turn to their running game at that point.' It really didn't happen that way. Everyone was wondering whether there was something wrong with RB Frank Gore. Why go with the mostly passing game plan for that?
"Now wait a second, a couple of weeks ago you guys were complaining that we were running it too much. Now it's flipped the switch, huh? Every week it's different. The strategies are what they are. Not going to get in to strategy. Every week is different. You've got to run it. You've got to throw it. You've got to do both to be successful, short term and long term."
Were you told that Frank wasn't available for his usual number of snaps?
"All conversations are kept internal."
You think Frank can be effective against Pittsburgh's rush defense this week?
"I think Frank can be productive against anybody. He's a tremendous running back. I think we've seen that. Had a couple great runs last week, great run on trap for a 37-yard touchdown. [WR Michael] Crabtree had a phenomenal, dominating block on that play which really helped spring it. The running game is a fixture of 11 people doing their job. All 11 people have to do their job to be successful."
When you're up in the booth, are you able to see if T Joe Staley gets hurt or are you too busy sifting through play calls and have somebody else kind of watching on the field what's going on with a player away from a play?
"Most of the time you get to see it. You just peripherally see it. You're trying to see the whole field. You're trying to see it. If you see a player down, you can see it. Just like you guys upstairs. As you're watching the play, I try to watch the whole play and then if somebody goes down and doesn't get up, you just see it."
You saw him maybe go down and know that you're going to have to adapt to that situation?
"Yeah, no question. You try to think about it ahead of time and you have to. But then everything shifts when that happens."
At the end of the game, Gore had to come out with a couple plays left. They had to bring RB Kendall Hunter back in. Did that affect your play calling for those last couple of plays knowing Frank wasn't in there?
"I can't really comment on strategy. I choose not to. Different players, yes, there is always going to be a consideration, yes."
Do the Steelers corners look to jump the routes more than other teams you've played?
"They play very physical. Ike Taylor loves to get up and press. He'll press every play, it seems, if he can. Gay will mix it up some more. They're very physical and they're very good cover guys. Quite frankly, they are just very good cover guys. It's obvious that they put their study time in. They do a very nice job of reading splits and just covering guys up and down the field and across the field. Really good players."
Do they match guys?
"They do at times. Not all the time, but it's week-to-week it seems."
Do you regret that Frank Gore only got 10 carries last week?
"I don't have regrets. I'm always moving forward. That's the answer for that one."