Niner of the Week

Defensive end Marques Douglas is SFI's Niner of the Week for his performance in the 49ers' 37-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sunday standout: The stellar play of the seventh-year veteran along the defensive interior helped keep San Francisco close through three quarters before the Steelers pulled away at the finish. Douglas spent a lot of time in the Pittsburgh backfield during the afternoon while recording eight tackles to share game-high honors with teammate Michael Lewis and Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu. Douglas also recorded half a sack when he and Lewis brought down Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a loss of eight yards that pushed the Steelers back into a second-and-18 situation at the San Francisco 43 late in the second quarter. Douglas helped thwart Pittsburgh on its previous drive when he nailed running back Willie Parker behind the line of scrimmage for a three-yard loss on first down, and the Steelers eventually went three-and-out. Douglas also stuffed Najeh Davenport for a two-yard loss on Pittsburgh's opening drive of the second half. On the Steelers' next drive, Douglas stopped Parker after gains of 1 and 2 yards, the second coming on a third-and-7 play from the San Francisco 33 to force Pittsburgh to settle for a field goal.

Season to date: After three weeks, Douglas is tied with Lewis for third on the team with 21 tackles, a figure that leads all San Francisco's defensive linemen and trails only linebackers Patrick Willis and Derek Smith. Douglas also is tied with Lewis for third on the team behind Willis and Nate Clements with 14 solo stops. He is second on the team behind Bryant Young with 1.5 sacks. Douglas has been a model of consistency with seven tackles in San Francisco opener and six in Week 2 before recording his season-high total last week, which tied his single-game high with the Niners since joining the team in 2005.

Need to note: Douglas has started 34 of the 35 games the 49ers have played since he joined the team as a free agent during the 2005 offseason. He played in all 16 games last year for the fourth consecutive season and also started all 16 games for the second time in his career, something he also did with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003. Douglas was third on the team and led all defensive linemen with 75 tackles last season, when he also recorded three sacks and two forced fumbles. Nobody on the San Francisco roster knows Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense better than Douglas, who played in it for three seasons in Baltimore from 2002-2004 when Nolan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator. Douglas earned his first Niner of the Week honor in Week 4 last year for his standout performance against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Douglas says: "This is a fun defense to play in. We haven't had this in the last two years that I've been here, so they're putting us in position to be successful and I'm just trying to take advantage of it. Coming into the year, I put the claim out there that I consider myself one the best 3-4 defensive ends out there. And once I said it, I have to live up to it. So that's a goal of mine. It's also a goal of mine to get this team back to where it needs to be, and that's respectability. Just thinking about how I can do that, I want to focus in on my job, but at the same time, try to make plays. I want to be in there, showing that I can be durable, that I can do some of those things that they say we can't do - rush the passer and stop the run. So I take that upon myself to just step up and really cease any questions that anybody has. When the opportunity presents itself, they want to see who can play inside the scheme but also make plays. And I want to prove to them and everybody else that I can do it. I just want to be an asset to my team."

Coach Mike Nolan says: "Marques has made a lot of plays. He's not your typical 3-4 end, because usually you have bigger guys. But he is a very intelligent player, a very crafty player and he's a real good competitor. I think he's an overachiever to a large degree, which is a compliment, not a criticism. He's a guy that I've known for a long time, and he had to do a lot of things to become a NFL player. I believe in recognizing him for all his strengths. He's a guy that plays with a lot of heart and passion and gives it his all."

Looking forward: Arguably one of the NFL's most underrated defensive linemen, Douglas has established himself as a rock along the front wall of San Francisco's 3-4 set and will remain one of the blocks the 49ers build around as they continue to develop that scheme. Douglas has established himself as an every-down player who not only holds up well against the run but also can provide pressure on passing downs. Voted by teammates as the captain representative of the defensive line, Douglas is a 49ers fixture and figures to remain so in the team's near future.

ALSO CONSIDERED: P Andy Lee (57.2 average on five punts with a 46.0 net, including kicks of 66, 63, 59 and 58 yards, Steelers started their drives after Lee punts, on average, at their 16-yard line); CB Nate Clements (six tackles, one pass defensed, another strong game both in pass coverage and run support)

2007 NOTW LIST: Week 1: WR Arnaz Battle. Week 2: RB Frank Gore. Week 3: DE Marques Douglas

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