PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Quarterback Alex Smith did not play as poorly as his stats indicate, but the production of the passing game still left a lot to be desired. Smith completed 17 of 35 for 209 yards. He had one touchdown and one interception. He and receiver Taylor Jacobs were not on the same page on one fourth-quarter play. Jacobs broke one way and Smith expected him to go in the other direction. The result was an interception returned for a touchdown. The pass protection was a little better, and the 49ers were better about getting the ball in the hands of tight end Vernon Davis, who caught 56 yards in passes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Running back Frank Gore is having a difficult time finding any room to run. The run blocking has not been great, and Gore hasn't had the opportunity to wear down defenses like he did so well a year ago. This game was Gore's 20th NFL start, and it was his lowest production during that time. He gained just 39 yards on 14 carries. Only because Smith scrambled for 32 yards on three rushes did the 49ers have a respectable 4.1 average. The 49ers managed five first downs rushing.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Hannibal Navies sacked Ben Roethlisberger. In the process, he stripped him of the ball and recovered it. The 49ers did a fine job against Hines Ward, allowing just one catch for two yards. Santonio Holmes managed just three catches for 49 yards. But the 49ers had difficulty defending the tight ends. Heath Miller had four catches for 82 yards and Jerame Tuman caught a nine-yard touchdown.
RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus -- The Steelers were able to open gaping holes in the middle of the line, as 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin seemed to be handled with ease. Willie Parker rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries. Najeh Davenport added 47 yards on five carries. The Steelers were able to control the clock with their running game. They also did not allow the 49ers defense any time to breathe. The Steelers scored on five consecutive drives from the end of the second quarter until they ran out the clock at the end of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The 49ers' coverage units have been pretty good. But they made the inexcusable mistake of allowing Steelers kick returner Allen Rossum to return a first-quarter kickoff for a 98-yard TD. Kicker Joe Nedney made each of his three FG attempts. The star on special teams was Andy Lee, who averaged 57.2 yards (46.0 net) on five punts.
COACHING: C -- The game plans appeared solid, especially on offense, where coordinator Jim Hostler had a more varied approach. The 49ers used a lot more shotgun and movement plays for Smith. Defensively, the 49ers also mixed up their coverages and blitzes. Coach Mike Nolan could have used some timeouts late in the first half to give his offense the opportunity to score some points after the Steelers had taken a 14-6 lead.
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