Roethlisberger had been hurt 11 days before against the Cleveland Browns, suffering a high-ankle sprain. Many, including myself, didn't believe he should've played in that game. He was hurt and was more important for the playoff run than this individual NFC game.
Now, understand, it isn't to be understated that Big Ben definitely knows what it means to play with pain. He has broken his thumb, torn cartilage in his knee, separated his shoulder and fractured a bone in his foot. Maybe his best "John Wayne" moment, though, came against the Ravens when defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke his nose in December of 2010. He stayed in the game and ended up throwing the winning touchdown pass to Isaac Redman in a 13-10 Steelers win that decided the division.
Well, Dan Patrick asked Big Ben when the last time he felt a team was going after his knees, ankles or head.
"Um, wow, that's tough," Roethlisberger said. "I don't really complain about that stuff, either. But I think when we played San Fran I felt like there were some things going on, some extra... Now, obviously, I did have the ankle and I was playing, so there was kind of a bulls-eye on there anyway. But for the most part...it's just...guys play tough and you go into a game expecting it. I expect to be tougher than them." - http://www.danpatrick.com/2012/05/09/ben-roethlisberger-talks-about-head-injuries-graduating-college/
That said, I'm not talking bounties and I don't believe either was the case with the 49ers. I watched every play of that game and saw nothing, absolutely nothing, to believe the 49ers did anything bounty related or set out to do serious damage to Big Ben's ankle. And to his credit, Big Ben never suggested that they did. That hasn't stopped the sports media on the whole from tossing it around in that light, though.