Donte Whitner was one of many quality free-agent acquisitions brought in by the 49ers before the 2011 season. The sixth-year safety has been an integral part to one of the league's top defenses, taking pride in his ability to line up his teammates in the correct positions. 49ers.com spoke with Whitner about his transition to the Bay Area lifestyle and why he's looking forward to playing on Monday night.
Q: Playing against another 10-3 team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, are you happy that it can be seen on such a big stage like Monday Night Football?
A: It means a lot. That's why I think Monday Night Football is so big in a player's eyes. You know that most people are going to tune in – a lot of friends, a lot of family. That's what makes it special – you know it's going to be broadcasted all around the country. So you might have friends Seattle, Wash., or Boston, Mass., and they'll be able to see you at the same time. That's why it's so special and guys want to prepare as well as they can and play as well as they can.
Q: Ben Roethlisberger is questionable to play on Monday, but as a competitor, do you hope he will be out there?
A: That's a challenge you want. You don't want to go out there and have a team that isn't going to be at full-strength. You want it to be a competitive matchup with two good football teams. You want to see Ben, because you want to go out there and test yourself and get playoff ready, and that's what we're trying to do.
Q: How much different is it living in the Bay Area after spending five seasons with the Buffalo Bills?
A: I love being here. I love the weather; I love waking up and the sun's shining, there's no snow on the ground and I can just drive to work, listen to music and think about what I have to do that day. I love the acceptance from the fans; I love every part about being here. The team is full of guys that really get along and really work hard together and speak their minds. We also have a straight-shooting coaching staff that really knows what they're talking about and really loves winning games. Everything about being here has been excellent so far.
Q: How does it feel to be a part of a defense that has accomplished so much already this season?
A: Not only haven't we allowed a rushing touchdown all year, but guys aren't allowing blown coverages. Guys are where they're supposed to be. That's one thing I take really serious is helping guys get lined up, making the right calls and being in the right defense. We haven't had a lot of big plays and that's a testament to the guys coming out and understanding their responsibility and getting it done. It's been fun helping solidify this defense, but we feel like we have a long way to go. We can get a lot better than what we are now and that's what we're working on.
Q: There are 18 49ers listed among the top five at their position in Pro Bowl voting, what does that say about the talent in this locker room?
A: I've never been to the Pro Bowl and there's a lot of guys that have never been. But once you win and you can showcase that talent – that's when guys get in the top five and start getting those votes. It's going to be fun to see how that plays out; it's something that comes along with winning. Everybody needs to understand that team winning and team goals really set up that individual success and those individual accolades. Guys have really bought into that here. Guys are just worried about the team and everything else will fall where it may at the end. You want to be invited to the Pro Bowl, but you don't really want to play. Hopefully we'll be too busy getting ready for the next playoff game.