The Steelers got off to a great start in their home opener and the 49ers couldn't keep up. The road team yielded big play after big play, and couldn't muster enough points to make the game competitive, giving Pittsburgh its first win of the season, 43-18.
Pittsburgh's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, while receiver Antonio Brown notched nine catches for 195 yards and a score. Running back DeAngelo Williams added three touchdowns.
A 21-0 run by the Steelers in the second quarter made things awfully tough on the 49ers, who traveled cross country to play six days after their season opening win over the Vikings. Pittsburgh came into their home opener with 10 days of rest, having played on the opening Thursday night in New England.
San Francisco had a chance to close the gap in the third quarter, but turned the ball over on downs on Pittsburgh's 1-yard line after fullback Bruce Miller dropped an easy touchdown pass on fourth down, ending an 18-play series.
The 49ers made it a 36-18 game when Kaepernick found new receiver Torrey Smith on a 75-yard catch-and-run in the fourth. That same duo connected on a fade route to the left for the two-point conversion. Roethlisberger responded quickly, taking 2:00 on an eight-play drive, finishing with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brown, pushing the lead to 43-18.
Kaepernick did most of his damage late, finishing with 335 yards, completing 33 of 46. His completions and attempts were both career highs. It was the first time Kaepernick eclipsed 300 yards passing since Oct. 13, 2014 in a win over in St. Louis. He was also San Francisco's leading rusher, getting 51 yards on eight carries.
The Steelers got on the board first, when Roethlisberger completed four passes on an eight-play drive, culminating on a three-yard connection to tight end Heath Miller in the end zone. It was an 8-0 game after Roethlisberger hit receiver Antonio Brown in the front left of the end zone to convert the two-point conversion.
The big play of the drive came on third and 5, when Roethlisberger hit streaking receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 41-yard gain past cornerback Dontae Johnson.
San Francisco responded with a long, 17-play drive by getting to Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line. But a slew of negative plays and penalties led to a 47-yard field goal from Phil Dawson, making it an 8-3 game.
Pittsburgh extended the lead to 16-3 midway through the second, continuing their damage on third down. Brown got behind cornerback Kenneth Acker while safety Eric Reid took a bad angle, allowing Roethlisberger to hit his favorite receiver for a 59-yard gain. Running back DeAngelo Williams scored from two yards out on the very next play.
And as the Steelers lined up for to kick the extra point, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks was flagged for a neutral zone infraction, allowing the Steelers to try a 2-point conversion from the 1-yard line, where Roethlisberger hit miller in the front of the end zone.
Pittsburgh quickly took a 22-3 lead, when Roethlisberger hit Heyward-Bey, sprinting behind safety Antoine Bethea, for a 35-yard score on a deep post route. The touchdown came on the first play of the drive after Brown returned a punt 16 yards into San Francisco’s territory. However, kicker Josh Scobee's 33-yard extra point missed off the left upright.
Then, things got even uglier for the 49ers, when Hyde fumbled an exchange from Kaepernick, giving the Steelers the ball back late in the half. Williams wound up scoring his second touchdown of the day, finishing off a six-play, 42-yard drive, giving the home team the 29-3 lead.
Hyde finished with 43 yards on 14 carries after scoring two touchdowns and running for 168 yards in the season opener against the Vikings.
Williams third touchdown, coming in the fourth quarter, pushed the lead to 36-10, and came after a 48-yard completion to Markus Wheaton with linebacker Michael Wilhoite in coverage, also on third down.
The 49ers (1-1) travel to take on the Arizona Cardinals next week in their first divisional game of the year.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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