Game 3 Matchup
Game 3 Matchup: Steelers vs. 49ers
Gerry Dulac breaks down the meeting of 2-0 teams
Sunday, September 23, 2007
What the Steelers will do: The offense has averaged nearly 36 minutes in time of possession. That has allowed defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to blitz more often with a rested defense, producing 10 sacks and 22 pressures/hurries. The Steelers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 27 consecutive games, and their focus will be to shut down RB Frank Gore then crank the blitz pressure on QB Alex Smith. RB Willie Parker has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the past six dating to last season. He will have to run inside the tackles because the 49ers have good speed on defense, particularly at linebacker.
What the 49ers will do: Smith has done a good job protecting the ball and not taking chances, not throwing an interception in 48 attempts. But he also has not thrown a touchdown. His average per attempt is 5.25 yards, lowest among NFL starting QBs. The offense revolves around Gore, who rushed for a franchise-record 1,695 yards last season but also caught 61 passes. Defensively, they use a 3-4 front in which NT Aubrayo Franklin (6-1, 334) tries to create space for rookie ILB Patrick Willis to make tackles (team-high 25 after two games).
Keep an eye on ...
49ers TE Vernon Davis: Smith has not made many big plays in the passing game, and he might have to do that against the Steelers to open room for his running game. That's why the Steelers will be keeping their eye on Davis, a No. 1 pick in 2006 who has just four catches for 27 yards in two games. Davis is big (6-3, 253), fast and athletic and caught 20 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns in eight starts last season. He was clocked at 4.38 in the scouting combine and is so versatile he lined at flanker, H-back and fullback at Maryland.
Game: San Francisco 49ers (2-0) at Steelers (2-0).
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Heinz Field.
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).
Rookie head coaches are 3-7 after two weeks, and Mike Tomlin has two of the victories. The 49ers have won the past two meetings in Pittsburgh (1993, 1996). But they have won just seven road games in the past five years, though one came last week in St. Louis. Plus, the season-ending injury to OLB Manny Lawson (knee) will hurt the defense.
Keys to victory
To win, the 49ers must ...
1. Gore the defense. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard runner since 2005 and are yielding an average of 74 yards rushing.
2. Have Nate be Great. The 49ers spent a lot of money in the offseason to improve their defense, most of it on Clements.
3. Be golden on third down. The 49ers have converted just 6 of 25 third-down chances, the lowest percentage (24.0) in the league.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Put Alex in jeopardy. Smith has to throw quickly against a defense that has 10 sacks and 22 hurries after two games.
2. Be talking 'bout Willis. The rookie linebacker is the most active player in the 49ers defense and Roethlisberger has to know what he's doing.
3. Apply some Colon. RT Willie Colon needs to handle DE Bryant Young, a 14-year veteran who has three of the 49ers' five sacks