Steelers Lay Hammer Down In Fourth To Put Away Niners
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Tuesday, September 25, 2007
By Eddie Griffin
Steelers Fever Columnist
After setting the pace in the first halves of their first two games, it was a dominant second half that led the Steelers to yet another 20+ win, a 37-16 victory over San Francisco in a battle of unbeatens. With the win, the Steelers improve to 3-0, and continue their impressive start to the season.
The 49ers took the lead on their opening drive, getting a 32-yard field goal from Joe Nedney. But, Allen Rossum quickly erased that lead by returning the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score and a 7-3 Steelers lead.
Pittsburgh led 14-6 at the half, after Ben Roethlisberger connected with Jerame Tuman on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left in the half.
In the second half, most notably the fourth quarter, the Steelers put a stamp on the game and their opponents away.
The teams traded field goals in the third, and it was 17-9 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, two more field goals by Jeff Reed gave Pittsburgh a 23-9 lead with five minutes to play.
On the 49ers' next drive after Reed's final field goal, Alex Smith threw a pass intended for Taylor Jacobs that corner Bryant McFadden picked off and returned 50 yards for the game-sealing touchdown with 4:01 to play. After San Francisco finally answered, Najeh Davenport finished off the afternoon with a 39-yard touchdown run with 1:51 remaining in the game.
It was another solid all-around performance from the Steelers, who got an efficient game from Roethlisberger, another 100-yard performance from Willie Parker, and another game from the defense in which they held the opponent to under 300 yards.
All in all, you've got to feel pretty good if you're a Steelers fan, not only because your team is one of only four 3-0 teams, but because the team has looked so good in getting to that mark.
And, after recording the first two romps against two of the league's poorer teams, this win came against one of the better teams, and goes a long way in establishing the Steelers as a viable contender.
There were contributions from all parts of the game.
Roethlisberger only had to throw 20 passes, but completed 65 percent of them for 161 yards and a touchdown. He did have one fumble that was recovered by San Francisco, but he continues to play extremely efficiently thus far.
Willie Parker rushed for 133 yards, and the Steelers ran for 205 yards total.
The defense held Alex Smith below 50 percent passing, and forced him to throw the ball 35 times, which is something that Mike Nolan would prefer Smith not to have to do, and more importantly, Frank Gore was held to only 39 yards on 14 carries.
On special teams, there was the kickoff return from Rossum for a score, and Reed going a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals.
Also, Pittsburgh once again held the edge on time of possession, 31:20 to 28:40, and were the picture of efficiency, scoring on seven of ten possessions and punting only twice, after doing so only once last week against Buffalo.
The only real foreseeable negative is the fact that the Steelers are still having trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone. They scored only two touchdowns in six red zone possessions against Buffalo, and scored only once in three red zone possessions against the 49ers.
But, look on the bright side. As I said last week, they got scores on all of those possessions, and that was the case once again on Sunday, as they came out of the red zone with two field goals and the touchdown catch by Tuman.
Reviewing the Matchups
Willie Parker vs. Patrick Willis
Willis did record seven tackles, but it's easy to see who the victor was in this one. Parker rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries, and broke off chunks of five or more yards with regularity, including runs of 15, 17, and 23 yards during the game. It wasn't about being big play Willie, but being first-down Willie, which might not be as exciting, but every bit as valuable.
Alex Smith vs. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben got the win, and was more efficient, continuing an excellent start to the season.
Smith, however, is still struggling to find his rhythm through three games.
Frank Gore vs. Pittsburgh's run defense
Well, the numbers say it all. Gore was held to only 39 yards on 14 carries, with his longest run being of only 11 yards.
The 49ers as a whole ran for only 91 yards, as the Steelers continue to play fantastic rush (and overall) defense so far.
Pittsburgh stays in the NFC West, but goes on the road for their next game, going to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.
The Cardinals are 1-2 on the season after dropping a 26-23 decision to Baltimore on Sunday. Matt Leinart was benched after starting poorly, and Kurt Warner led the Cardinals back from a 23-6 fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 23 with less than two minutes left. But, the Ravens, being led by Kyle Boller, who had replaced the re-injured Steve McNair, went down the field and got a Matt Stover field goal as time expired to pick up the win.
The Cardinals are going to throw it, and throw it often, whoever they have under center. With Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona has two of the league's premier receivers, and they regularly have the ball in their hands. And, you can't forget about the Edgerrin James they have running the ball, who's had a solid start to the season (270 yards, two scores).
But, the defense is, as is the case most years, a big question mark, and was torched for 381 yards (280 passing) and 26 points by a Ravens team not normally known for their offense.
So, it might be a good thing that the Steelers are averaging 32 points through three games, as things could very well get a little wild. Then again, it could end up being a 17-14 game. That's how crazy football is.
The Cardinals certainly won't be a pushover, as that offense will keep them in a lot of games, but with the Steelers clicking so well on offense and the Cardinals' defense, well, not so much, then early returns say that the Steelers should be 4-0 come next Sunday night.