The San Francisco 49ers looked far removed from their promising Week 1 showing Sunday morning, as a sluggish secondary and dismal offensive line play allowed the Steelers to bruise their way to a 43-18 victory.
After limiting the Minnesota Vikings to a stingy 231 passing yards, the 49ers secondary was torched by veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to the tune of 369 yards hauled in by his speedy receiving core.
Wide receivers Antonio Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey, along with TE Heath Miller, all hauled in touchdowns while helping Pittsburgh jump out to an early lead that would never truly be threatened. Brown lead all receivers with 195 yards on the day.
The Steelers offense was far from a one-trick pony however, as RB DeAngelo Williams found the end zone three times on the ground when Roethlisberger wasn’t airing it out down the field.
The 43 points allowed by San Francisco was the most allowed in six seasons.
Pittsburgh’s confidence in overwhelming the 49ers defense was made apparent by their tendency to go for the 2-point conversion, which they cashed in seamlessly with a pair of passes to Brown to complete both of their attempts.
Not to be outdone by their counterparts, the Pittsburgh defense terrorized the 49ers offense, stifling Kaepernick and the run game while making a number of key red zone stands. San Francisco had a late-game surge of offense, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.
Kaepernick finished with 33-of-46 passing for 335 yards and two touchdowns. WR’s Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith hauled in touchdowns. After a big season opener, RB Carlos Hyde was limited to just 43 yards on 14 carries before leaving the game in the second quarter with a suspected head injury. 49ers Head Coach Jim Tomsula said after the game he kept Hyde out despite being cleared to return to the game.
San Francisco used a steady diet of the read option on their second drive to move deep within the Steelers red zone. But the drive lost steam in a hurry after a pair of penalties from the offensive line and passes that lost yards forced the 49ers to settle for a 47-yard field goal from K Phil Dawson that made the score 8-3.
The 49ers were unable to recover, as the Steelers defense rode the momentum of their red zone stand throughout the remainder of the first half, backing the 49ers up near their goal line and forcing a fumble from Hyde that would lead to easy scores for the Pittsburgh offense.
The Steelers were unrelenting in disallowing San Francisco’s wide receivers to run down the field, as Kaepernick completed an impressive 11-of-15 passes for a meager 61 yards. Roethlisberger, on the other hand, completed just three more passes in the first half but for 191 more yards than the 49ers gunslinger.
The 49ers’ offensive frustration came to a head to start the third quarter, as a 17-play drive to the goal line ended in disappointment. After completing a pair of fourth-down conversions, and with a multitude of red zone tries, the 49ers turned the ball over on downs after FB Bruce Miller couldn’t corral a fourth-down pass near the corner of the end zone.
Kaepernick would redeem himself on the following drive with a heavy dose of his tight ends to move down the field for their third red zone trip of the game. Penalties again threatened what was a promising drive, but WR Anquan Boldin salvaged the trip with a 14-yard touchdown reception on fourth down to give San Francisco their first touchdown of the game and a 29-10 deficit.
Roethlisberger squelched the potential momentum builder from San Francisco though, as another deep pass to Wheaton would set up Williams’ third touchdown of the game to extend the Pittsburgh lead to 36-10.
Kaepernick made work of his next trip on the field though, as the gunslinger threw a laser to his new offensive weapon in Smith for a 75-yard touchdown reception, using just two plays and 45 seconds to get his offensive back in the end zone. Kaepernick would find Smith again for a two-point conversion to seal the eight-point drive.
In what turned into a late shootout, Roethlisberger used a short drive of his own for his third touchdown reception of the game, finding Brown deep down the field for a 56-yard pass to move deep into the 49ers territory.
The talented receiver would finish what he started by hauling in his first touchdown of the day, a 7-yard catch in the back of the end zone.
After yet another 49ers failed fourth-down attempt at the goal line, the Steelers would run down the clock to secure their victory.
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