Power outage! OK, I got the easy one out of the way, but in reality it was a lost opportunity as the Pittsburgh Steelers lost 20-3 to the San Francisco 49ers Monday night at Candlestick Stadium. The kickoff of the game was delayed thanks to a power outage caused by a transformer and the Steelers own transformer, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was short on his own consistent power in the loss.
Roethlisberger made the start despite an injured left ankle suffered in week 14 against the Cleveland Browns and he just wasn\’t right all night. He was 25 for 44 on the night for 330 yards, but threw 3 interceptions and fumbled once. His first interception came on the Steelers first offensive possession inside the 49ers redzone as he forced a ball that was intercepted by 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers. The 49ers capitalized on the turnover by driving 69 yards on 17 plays, but had to settle for a 22 yard field goal by kicker David Akers.
The Steelers second drive ended in a Roethlisberger interception as well as he threw high to tight end Heath Miller and the ball fell into the waiting arms of safety Dashon Goldson. Dawson returned the ball to the Steelers 45 yard-line, but once again the 49ers had to settle for 3 points after stalling at the Steelers 20 yard-line.
Despite the miscues and stupid penalties, the Steelers were still only down 6-0 at the half, but they could only muster a Shaun Suisham 51 yard field goal with a little over 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The 49ers answered that score on their next drive with a 5 play, 79 yards drive that saw 49ers quarterback Alex Smith go 4 for 5 passing that included two big plays to tight end Vernon Davis and running back Kendall Hunter. The drive culminated with a Smith to Davis 1 yard touchdown pass on a nice play action fake that saw the entire Steelers defense bite on the run fake.
The night got worse from there for the immobile Roethlisberger as he was sacked 3 times from that point on and one of those was by 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith that ended with the fumble by Roethlisberger. Smith had 2.5 sacks on the night as he abused the Steelers left side of the line with simple stunts. A 5 yard touchdown run by running back Frank Gore following the fumble capped the scoring for the 49ers and the game was all but over with 9:10 left in the game.
The 49ers did not turn the ball over in the game and Smith ended with 187 yards passing on 18 completions. Davis led the 49ers with 6 catches for 72 yards and the touchdown. Jerricho Cotchery led the Steelers with 5 catches for 93 yards and Miller chipped in 5 catches of his own for 82 yards in the loss. Veteran Hines Ward did not have a catch in the game and was never even targeted.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall carried 15 times for 64 yards, but was bested by Gore by 1 yard as he had 18 carries for 65 yards. The 49ers rushed for an even 100 yards in the game while the Steelers had just 84 yards rushing.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley returned from his hamstring injury and Jason Worilds replaced the suspended James Harrison at right outside linebacker, but the Steelers failed to record a sack of Smith on the night and did not get good pressure up front throughout the game.
The loss drops the Steelers to 10-4 on the season and they are no longer in control of their own destiny as far as the AFC North title goes, and more importantly home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They return home now to face the St. Louis Rams on Saturday at Heinz Field. I will have a complete breakdown after I go back through the game a second time per my usual.