SANTA CLARA A 49ers offensive line that has given up 18 sacks in its past three games likely will be spared from facing one of the most feared pass rushers Monday night.
The NFL on Tuesday announced a one-game suspension for Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, who briefly knocked Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy from Thursday's game with a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Harrison has a history of similar collisions. The blow to McCoy marked his fifth illegal quarterback hit in the past three seasons. He racked up $125,000 in fines last season, all for illegal hits.
In a poll of 111 players by the Sporting News earlier this year, Harrison was voted the league's second-dirtiest player behind the runaway winner, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh noted on KNBR radio Tuesday that with a successful appeal of the ruling Harrison would be available to play against the 49ers.
"We'll monitor it," Harbaugh said.
Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, said his client indeed will appeal. Harrison has three days to do so, and the case will be heard by appeals officers Art Shell or Ted Cottrell who were jointly appointed by the NFL and the players' union to hear such cases.
The 49ers have allowed 39 sacks this season, sixth-worst in the NFL.
The team has had pass- protection breakdowns in a number of areas, but one recent theme has been the center of the line's inability to pick up stunts and extra blitzers.
That was the case during the 49ers' Nov. 24 debacle against Baltimore during which they allowed nine sacks. It also plagued them in Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Four of the five sacks on Alex Smith came on blitzes up the middle, and guards Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder and center Jonathan Goodwin either were beaten or failed to pick up pass rushers at various times.
"Obviously they brought a lot of pressure, especially on third downs," Smith said after the Arizona game. "We anticipated that. We knew they were going to be aggressive with us. That's on all of us. We all have to be better."
An ominous sign for the 49ers is that Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton was hired this year out of Pittsburgh and brought the Steelers' defensive scheme with him to Arizona.
Pittsburgh has 30 sacks this season. Harrison has eight of those, while fellow starting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley leads the team with nine.
Harrison, however, missed four games earlier this season with a fractured right orbital bone (eye socket). The Steelers won all four in his absence, including a 25-17 win over the Patriots.
If Harrison doesn't play, second-year player Jason Worilds will start in his place. He has three sacks.
The 49ers also could be without their star linebacker, Patrick Willis, for a second consecutive game. Willis still is recovering from a Grade 2 hamstring strain suffered Dec. 4 and likely will be listed as questionable for Monday night's game.