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Old 09-24-2007, 08:51 AM   #1
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Default Reportcard: Game 3 -- Steelers vs. 49ers

Reportcard: Game 3 -- Steelers vs. 49ers
Monday, September 24, 2007
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gerry Dulac grades the Steelers' effort in the 37-16 win against the 49ers yesterday at Heinz Field. The report is broken down into defensive, offensive positions and coaching.

It was another efficient performance for Ben Roethlisberger, who did not throw an interception and produced a late first-half touchdown to tight end Jerame Tuman. He also made a nice play to bide time and find Heath Miller for a 29-yard catch to set up a field goal to start the second half. Still, there was that fumble on the sack on the second play from scrimmage.

Running backs=A+
Willie Parker had his fourth 100-yard game in a row and sixth in his past seven starts, and he did a marvelous job waiting for his blocks and hitting holes. He had 79 of his season-high 133 yards on just 11 carries at halftime, including a 23-yard run in which he spun off a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Najeh Davenport closed it out with a nice 39-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Receivers=BHines Ward was held to just one catch for 2 yards and Santonio Holmes did not catch a pass until the third quarter. But tight end Heath Miller finished with four catches for 82 yards and backup tight end Jerame Tuman caught a 9-yard touchdown pass, the third game in a row a tight end has caught a touchdown. Holmes finished with three catches, the best an 18-yarder on third-and-6.

Offensive line=A+
The running game finished with 205 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry, and the reason was the performance of the offensive line. Left tackle Marvel Smith was a terror in run blocking and guards Alan Faneca and Kendall Simmons took turns leading the way on counter plays. Right tackle Willie Colon did an outstanding job on defensive end Bryant Young, who had one tackle and no sacks.

Defensive line=B+
The first priority was to stop running back Frank Gore, the NFC's leading rusher in 2006, and the Steelers did that, holding him to 39 yards on 14 carries. The 49ers finished with 91 yards on 22 carries, but that's because Alex Smith scrambled for 25 of his 34 yards on one play in the fourth quarter. Nose tackle Casey Hampton made a big stop on Gore on second down at the Steelers' 5 in the first quarter.

The Steelers underestimated Smith's ability to scramble, costing them several sacks and allowing him to make some big plays. James Farrior (two passes defensed) and rookie LaMarr Woodley accounted for the two sacks, but the linebackers let Smith escape too many times when they had a chance to get him on the turf.

It's a big performance any time the defense produces a touchdown, and so it was when cornerback Bryant McFadden returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith's longest pass play was 31 yards, and that came on a short swing pass to tight end Vernon Davis on the first series. Cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend were solid in run defense, keeping Gore from getting to the edge.

Special teams=A
The big spark was provided early by Allen Rossum, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-3 lead. Jeff Reed added three more field goals to run his season point total to 37 and McFadden made a nice backhand save to have a punt downed at the 8. And there was punter Daniel Sepulveda, recovering an onside-kick attempt as part of the hands team.

Mike Tomlin continues to keep the team prepared and focused, producing a third consecutive lopsided win and giving the Steelers a 3-0 record for the first time since 1992. What's more, the Steelers received touchdowns from the offense, defense and special teams, another sign he is getting production from all three areas. His impact on the team is not to be discounted.
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