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mesaSteeler
12-13-2011, 07:09 AM
Beating 49ers is important goal for Steelers

By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What looked like a challenging road trip when NFL schedules were released in the spring has turned into one of the most daunting games on the Steelers' slate.

The Monday nighter in San Francisco has also become a contest the Steelers have to win if they want to stay in the chase for a fourth AFC North title in five years under coach Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers and Ravens are tied atop the division with 10-3 records. Baltimore, however, holds the all-important tiebreaker by virtue of its first season sweep of the Steelers since 2006.

The reality of that for the Steelers is that they may well finish 13-3 and still have to take the wild-card route in their pursuit of a seventh Super Bowl title.

The Ravens should go no worse than 2-1 in their final three games, and their toughest remaining opponent is San Diego.

They play the Chargers in San Diego on Sunday, a day before the Steelers try to beat a 49ers franchise that has been energized and revitalized by first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.

Even if Baltimore loses in San Diego, the Steelers have to win out because they probably won't get the help they need from the Browns and Bengals, Baltimore's final two opponents.

"We can't depend on anybody," Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said. "All we can do is control the games we play and hopefully be on the good end of them. We know we don't have any room for error."

They will have to overcome a lot to beat San Francisco, including injuries to their franchise quarterback and several other key players, thousands of miles of air travel and a team that has won 10 games and restored hope and pride to a storied organization.

"The odds are stacked against us," Farrior said, "but we'll be ready."

It's hard to imagine them not playing with a sense of urgency in San Francisco.

And that could be the difference in what figures to be a low-scoring, defensive struggle.

By the numbers

1 San Francisco's NFL rank in scoring defense and rushing defense

2 Steelers fans' rank on list of most difficult to play against for visiting teams, according to a Sports Illustrated poll of NFL players

7 Consecutive games in which Antonio Brown has led the Steelers in receptions or receiving yards

14.0 Points per game allowed by the 49ers

24.1 The Steelers' third-down conversion rate in their past three games

70.5 Average rushing yards allowed by the 49ers

179.1 Passing yards allowed per game by the Steelers, the lowest in the NFL

3 players to watch

NaVorro Bowman, ILB: His emergence has given the 49ers the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL. Bowman, who teams with perennial All-Pro Patrick Willis, is tied for seventh in the NFL with 113 tackles. The former Penn State standout, a third-round draft pick in 2010, also has recovered three fumbles.

Frank Gore, RB: Despite the vast improvement of quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, the 49ers' offense still runs through Gore. The seventh-year veteran is fourth in the NFL with 1,054 rushing yards, and earlier this season Gore became the 49ers' all-time leading rusher.

Mike Wallace, WR: Wallace hasn't gone over 100 yards receiving in six consecutive games, and he is more than due to break out in San Francisco. The Steelers will need some big plays, too, since it may be difficult to put together sustained drives against one of the stingiest defenses in the league.

Q&A with Ryan Mundy

Q: Where is it harder for the opposition to play, The Wolverina (Woodland Hills High School's field) or Heinz Field?

A: I've got to say Heinz Field when they play Renegade, but the Wolverina is a very close second. We used to sell out every week, 15,000.

Q: Does Mike Tomlin call you Wonderlic?

A: Here and there. I've heard it quite a bit lately. Sometimes he calls me Mundy. Sometimes he calls me Wonderlic, but it's funny nobody calls me Ryan. I've rarely been called by my first name. Everybody just calls me by my last name. I don't know what's up with that, but I like being called Ryan.

Q: If you were on a deserted island, what three things would you have?

A: I need a computer, my Bible and probably a nice beach blanket.

Quotable

"We aren't surprised by his contributions. We see it. We've seen it for two years on the practice field. This guy comes to work every day, and it's just good football justice, seeing it transpire in stadiums. We respect him in terms of his big playmaking ability, but we respect him more for how he approaches his profession at work." Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on wide receiver Antonio Brown

"Every day I can get an inch on this game to get better with Hoke, I know it's worth it and I'm going to take advantage. I want to be a great player. I don't want to be a drop-off from Hoke or Hamp." Defensive tackle Steve McLendon on why he will continue to work with Chris Hoke even though the latter is out for the rest of the season with a neck injury

"It's all a friendly competition. We never sit down and talk about, 'I'm doing better,' it's all for the team. We just go out there and work as hard as we can." Cortez Allen on his working relationship with fellow rookie cornerback Curtis Brown

"It's nice getting to 10, and we'll just hopefully keep stacking hot cakes." Defensive end Brett Keisel on the Steelers reaching double digits in wins

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

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Whodis
12-13-2011, 07:29 AM
This game should show us how prepared we are for the playoffs. IMO if your healthy enough to play you need to be on the field.

Quasar
12-13-2011, 11:45 AM
This game should show us how prepared we are for the playoffs. IMO if your healthy enough to play you need to be on the field.

Especially considering we may have to travel to the west coast (San Diego/Oakland, maybe even Denver) for a playoff game, if the Steelers don't take the division.

tanda10506
12-13-2011, 11:55 AM
I really don't want to go the wild card route. After the ravens played the niners I was optimistic, but now with Pouncey and Ben hurt/questionable, Woodley still hurt, Harrison stolen from us, Essex likely playing gaurd, it just doesn't look good. We can definetly win, don't get me wrong, but it will be a task. Lose this one and we will be a wild card.

Fire Arians
12-13-2011, 12:00 PM
hopefully the harrison suspension pisses off the team and they come out swinging

casteeler
12-13-2011, 12:24 PM
hopefully the harrison suspension pisses off the team and they come out swinging

This will be an emotional game for both teams. I live in Northern California and the niner fans act like the Steelers are a joke and they(49ers)will cruise to the Superbowl but the feel like hammering the Steelers will prove they are a shoe-in. My Steeler flag flies on top of my house as I write this for all the Niner fans to see!!!

Whodis
12-13-2011, 12:54 PM
This will be an emotional game for both teams. I live in Northern California and the niner fans act like the Steelers are a joke and they(49ers)will cruise to the Superbowl but the feel like hammering the Steelers will prove they are a shoe-in. My Steeler flag flies on top of my house as I write this for all the Niner fans to see!!!

Looking @ their results vs AFC North I would have a hard time believing they will "cruise" past the Steelers. NFC West is a joke! San Fran wouldn't make the playoffs in our division

RichardCullinanForever
12-13-2011, 01:05 PM
hopefully the harrison suspension pisses off the team and they come out swinging

Amen.

BlaZeQuietly
12-14-2011, 06:00 PM
San Fran's 1st string QB doesnt have Jack on our 2nd string QB, so even if big ben isn't playing or isn't 100% all they have on us is their rushing game and rushing defense, but either way the general consensus, that this will be a low scoring game is probably right. I see this going 13-10 in either direction.