STEELERS 43, 49ERS 19
Steelers' record: 1-1
One year ago: 1-1
Series record (including playoffs): 49ers lead, 11-10
During the opener, the challenge for the Steelers defense was Tom Brady's passing accuracy and guile. This week, it was expected to be much more down-home and old-school. Before he became the 49ers coach, Jim Tomsula was born and raised in Homestead, Pa., a 10-minute drive from Heinz Field.
A behind the scenes look at pregame warmups and locker room prep before the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 2 home opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
"Running the football is something I grew with there," said Tomsula. "You have the Western Pa. belly-play, the old fullback-belly play, run it up the gut, coming straight out of Pittsburgh. To me, that's the essence of football. We try to build a sturdy team here, and a team that can run the football. If we need to throw the ball 50 times to win the game – we want to win, so we will do what we need to do to win. Running the football is actually something we want to be able to do."
Running the ball was something the 49ers did extremely well in its opener, a 20-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings in which they rushed for 230 yards and averaged 5.9 per attempt.
As for the Steelers offense, the challenge against the 49ers was going to be the same as it was the previous week against the Patriots: themselves.
"When you have 450-plus yards, you really should score 30-plus points," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley about the unit's performance against the Patriots while also setting the bar for future expectations.
"We had nine possessions. We crossed the 50-yard line seven times," Haley added. "We only scored on four of those seven times. Even if you just kick a field goal every time you cross the 50-yard line, you are at 21 points. Sneak in a couple of touchdowns, all of a sudden you are at 30 points, which is the name of the game. We just have to be more productive. And it fell on a little bit of everybody. There was a bad (play) call there early. It was turned into a worse call with the penalty. We had a penalty on the 1-yard line later in the game. Darrius Heyward-Bey not keeping his feet in on what would have been a nice end-of-the-half touchdown for us. It was a little bit of everybody not quite finishing, and we have to be better."
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
The 49ers wanted to utilize their power running attack with multiple tight ends, as they did in their opener against the Vikings, and they also wanted to utilize Colin Kaepernick as a multi-threat. San Francisco finished with 111 yards rushing (3.6 average), and Kaepernick rushed for 51 yards while passing for 335 and both of San Francisco's touchdowns.
But the Steelers defense stiffened at some of the game's critical moments. San Francisco was just 1-for-4 in the red zone, and 1-for-4 in goal-to-go situations.
On offense, the Steelers finished with 453 yards of total net offense, which was only 44 yards more than the 49ers, but they were 5-for-5 in the red zone. The Steelers did not need to attempt any field goals, and their six touchdowns were split equally, with three coming on passes from Ben Roethlisberger and three coming off DeAngelo Williams' runs.
"On defense, we played better situational football, especially when the field got short," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We were competitive and we were better finishers on offense when the field got short. This was a necessary response from some known weaknesses a week ago. We're probably not as bad as we were a week ago, and we probably aren't as good as we were today."
Maybe not so much the turning point, but the tone-setter came midway through the second period. A Steelers touchdown and a two-point conversion late in the first quarter had been answered by the 49ers with a 17-play drive that ended in a 47-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to make the score, 8-3, with 10:27 left in the first half. After the ensuing kickoff, the Steelers drove 80 yards in seven plays, with Ben Roethlisberger completing 3-of-4 for 73 yards, with two of those completions converting third downs. DeAngelo Williams' first rushing touchdown of the afternoon was followed by another successful 2-point conversion, and the Steelers had answered a San Francisco score by extending what had been a five-point lead to a 13-point lead.
FIRST HALF STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Ben Roethlisberger completed 14-of-19 for 252 yards, a total that more than doubled the 49ers' 103 total net yards of offense, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 150.7. Roethlisberger also completed passes to Antonio Brown and Heath Miller for a pair of two-point conversions during a half that ended with the Steelers holding a 29-3 lead.
"Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have been on the same page for a very long time. The offensive line has been together as well. I said before I got here, this team right here, is a Super Bowl contending team. That's why I wanted to sign here. They showed me that today. We showed that today."
-- DeAngelo Williams