Steelers Torch 49ers’ Defense, En Route To 43-18 Win


So…where do we go from here?

Personally, I’m looking at it this way: I don’t think the San Francisco 49ers are as good as they looked in Week 1, and I don’t think they’re as bad they appeared in Week 2. Still, the 43-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a complete debacle, and raises a number of red flags.

For one, you have to be really concerned about an offense that is incapable of finishing drives. Sure, the numbers looked good when you glance at the box score, but most of that yardage was accumulated in garbage time. The truth is, the 49ers averaged 2.9 yards per play and only managed three points in the first-half.

The real distressing stat is the fact that San Francisco was once again held to 20 points or less. In case you haven’t noticed, this is becoming a very disturbing trend. In their last 12 games, the 49ers have only broken the 20-point mark twice. In fact, they’ve been held to 18 points or less in eight of those 12 games. That’s not just going to get it done.

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Can you blame poor pass protection? Absolutely, and that particular weakness was in full display again as the Steelers dropped QB Colin Kaepernick five times and harassed him throughout the day.

Can you say the offense shoots itself in the foot? Yep. It seems like every time a drive gets going, there’s always a holding call of a bonehead penalty to stall things.

Let’s see, what else? Is the quarterback a work in progress? Have there been red zone issues? Trouble getting the snap off? I can go on and on. The truth is, the offense still isn’t very good. It could get there, and there have been flashes in the early going, but this is a veteran group that should be able to put the ball in the endzone, not rookies finding their way. The excuses are running out.

As far as the defense goes, I just think this was a young unit playing poorly on the road on a short week. That’s not to excuse the performance, they were awful, but to think there won’t be some ups and downs with this group would be naive.

Just look at the secondary. CB Kenneth Acker and CB Keith Reaser are basically rookies after missing all of last season with injuries. DB Jimmie Ward and CB Dontae Johnson are second-year players with limited experience. The elder statesmen of the group, CB Tramaine Brock, has 11 career starts. They played a future Hall of Fame quarterback in QB Ben Roethisberger and maybe the best wide-receiver in the league in WR Antonio Brown and got torched. It’s going to happen with a young group.

It wasn’t all on the back end though as there was no pressure up front, and the Niners didn’t even register a hit on Roethisberger let alone a sack. They surrendered three rushing touchdowns to RB DeAngelo Williams and allowed 4.2 yards per carry to Pittsburgh backs. So it was really an all around bad effort.

But here’s the thing, this isn’t the 2011-2013 49ers where you can say this was just an off week for the D. This is going to happen again in a season where so many young players are finding their footing in the NFL. As frustrating as it is, it’s part of the growing process for any young unit.

All of these reasons are why the 49ers will be such a maddening team in 2015. There will be weeks that give up hope, and weeks that take it away. It’s why I think this team can win 10 games, or they can win four. The defense, the quarterback…it’s all a work in progress. Stay buckled in, it’s going to be a bumpy a ride.


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A SUNY Oswego Alum, Al has been covering the 49ers and the NFL for various sites since 2012. From guest podcasts to work being used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY, Al brings a wealth of knowledge about the 49ers and the NFL as a whole, and is passionate about his work and the sport of football.