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Steelers stumble in San Francisco

Posted Dec 20, 2011

49ERS 20, STEELERS 3

Steelers’ record: 10-4
One year ago: 10-4
Series record (including playoffs): 49ers lead, 11-9

STORYLINE
Because of what happened on Sunday, culminating with the Chargers defeating the Ravens in San Diego, this Monday night game took on an even higher meaning for the Steelers. Because the Ravens and Texans both have four losses, the Steelers went into the contest vs. the 49ers with a clear path to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Take care of business to get to 13-3, and as a result win any potential tiebreaker with 13-3 New England because of that victory over the Patriots on Oct. 30. That was what the Steelers had set up in front of them as they arrived at Candlestick Park.

TURNING POINT
Maybe not so much a turning point as it was an omen, the total power outage that struck Candlestick Park about 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff upset the entire rhythm of the start of the game. The teams were kept in the locker room, and then had to come out and warm-up all over again. By the time the teams got back onto the field and national anthem was sung, the start of the game was delayed by 20 minutes.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Through three quarters, the Steelers had more total yards than the 49ers and also had converted 60 percent of their third downs. But they still trailed, 13-3, at the time because of turnovers.

WHAT WENT RIGHT
* After their first takeaway, the 49ers drove 69 yards in 17 plays but had to settle for a field goal after moving to a first-and-goal at the Steelers 2-yard line. Frank Gore was dumped for a loss by Ryan Clark on first down, and then Alex Smith missed on two straight passes before the David Akers field goal.

* Ryan Clark covered a lot of ground and timed his hit perfectly to knock the ball out of Vernon Davis’ hands for what would have been about a 20-yard gain late in the second quarter.

* Stevenson Sylvester dumped Ted Ginn after just a 12-yard return of the second half kickoff, and on the play the 49ers’ return ace injured an ankle and had to leave the game.

* Shaun Suisham capped a seven-play, 57-yard drive with a 51-yard field goal – his longest of the season – to cut the 49ers lead to 6-3 with 6:08 left in the third quarter.

WHAT WENT WRONG
* A transformer outside Candlestick Park blew and cast the entire stadium in total darkness about 10-15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff. The official delay was listed at 20 minutes.

* The 49ers defense came into the weekend leading the league in takeaways, and they added to their total on the Steelers first possession. After putting together a couple of first downs, the Steelers had moved to the 49ers 19-yard line when a Ben Roethlisberger pass that was intended for either David Johnson or Mike Wallace was intercepted by Carlos Rogers.

* Two possessions, two turnovers by the Steelers, both coming on interceptions by Roethlisberger. On this second one, with all day to throw, Roethlisberger tried to force the ball to Heath Miller, but it was overthrown and Dashon Goldson was there to make the play. After his return, the 49ers began their second possession at the Steelers 45-yard line.

* On a third-and-7 from the Steelers 30-yard line, Alex Smith threw a short pass to Vernon Davis, and when Cortez Allen couldn’t get him on the ground Davis was able to lunge for the yards necessary for the first down.

* The Steelers began their final possession of the first half at their own 5-yard line, and a 24-yard reception by Antonio Brown moved the ball to the 49ers 14-yard line as time expired. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact the Steelers went into the locker room with one unused timeout.

* Even when the Steelers did something good with one of their units, another would make a mistake to cancel it out. For example, after the defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, Andy Lee punted from the 49ers 12-yard line. Not only did Lee get off a 62-yard punt, but Damon Cromartie-Smith’s holding penalty pushed the Steelers back to their own 16-yard line.

THE WEEK THAT WAS, INJURY VERSION
When the Steelers began preparing in earnest for this game against the 49ers, there was uncertainty about the playing status of several of their key players.

Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey both had sustained high ankle sprains in the win over the Browns, Troy Polamalu was listed as questionable with a hamstring strain, and Emmanuel Sanders’ availability was in doubt because of his recurring foot injury.

Pouncey and Sanders never got on the practice field and were declared out, but Polamalu was able to practice by Saturday and he started at safety. Roethlisberger “worked tirelessly” to get ready to play, according to Coach Mike Tomlin, and he was able to show enough by Saturday to start against the 49ers.