The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half of their home opener holding a 29-3 lead after getting into the end zone four times on offense, twice aided by short fields. One punt deep in 49ers territory with a good return, and a fumbled handoff recovered at the 31, set up two of those touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger finished the first half completing 14 of 19 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns, caught by Heath Miller and Darrius Heyward-Bey. DeAngelo Williams converted two on the ground. Antonio Brown has five receptions for 128 yards already, and Heyward-Bey has four receptions for 77 yards.
Defensively, in addition to the fumble recovery, the Steelers also registered three sacks, one apiece from Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, and Ryan Shazier. The defense has registered a number of impact tackles for loss so far, which has had a profound impact on the momentum of the game. The 49ers were facing first and goal before a series of positive defensive plays set up third and goal at the 22. The offense fed off of that and took off from there.
After a kick return to the 18, Shazier made a tackle for loss on first down. Colin Kaepernick found Torrey Smith on second down, but his reverse momentum carried him short of the sticks. On third and one, Carlos Hyde bounced off of several hits to cross the line for a new set of downs.
With Kaepernick scrambling under pressure, Shazier grabbed a hold of his jersey to prevent a large gain. On second and three, Shazier broke through for another tackle for loss, but the Steelers accepted a clipping penalty, which comes with a 15-yard foul. On second and 18, the defense swarmed in the backfield, with Arthur Moats the first of several to get to Kaepernick for a fourth sack. Also there were Tuitt and Shazier. Kaepernick scrambled for just a short gain, stopped by Shazier.
On first down, Roethlisberger threw a screen to Brown, but he was tackled for a loss of one. Williams was stopped for no gain on a screen on second down after Ramon Foster could not get to his block. On third down, the quarterback dumped it off to Williams for a short gain, the Steelers’ first three-and-out of the game. Jordan Berry‘s punt was fielded at the 10 and returned to the 17, a 39-yard net.
On first down, Kaepernick kept it, with Shazier making the tackle and helping to force a fumble, but the 49ers recovered. Vernon Davis‘ first pass was good for a first down. From the 28, Kaepernick went down the seam to tight end Blake Bell, dropping it between two defenders, but it was incomplete. On second down, Anquan Boldin picked up six yards on a screen, but Lawrence Timmons drew an unnecessary roughness call, adding 15 yards.
Now on the 49, Kaepernick hit Boldin for another first down into Steelers territory. Kaepernick kept it again for a 10-yard gain. Boldin dropped the ball on second and 10. On third down, Shazier and Timmons kept Hyde short of the first down. Kaepernick lofted the ball to Davis to convert on fourth down.
From the 12, Allen and Mike Mitchell combined on the tackle after a two-yard gain. Bruce Miller was held shy of the first down to set up third and one. Pressure on Kaepernick from Moats influenced an incomplete pass into the end zone. Mike Davis got the carry and got enough forward momentum to convert, setting up first and goal from the two. Mike Tomlin challenged the spot, his last eligible challenge.
The ruling on the field stood, with lack of convincing evidence to overturn. On first and goal, Davis was stuffed with Hyde going back to the locker room. Under pressure, Kaepernick threw the ball out of bounds on second down. Davis was stopped up the middle on third down, with McLendon coming off the block to make the stop. On fourth down, Kaepernick threw to his fullback, Miller, but he could not hold on to the ball through to the ground as he was shoved out of bounds by Timmons. The Steelers defense prevents points and takes over on downs at the two-yard line.
Employing a fullback at the goal line, Williams barreled his way forward for a pickup of four yards to create some breathing room. On second down, however, he was stuffed for no gain. On third down, Roethlisberger looked deep again to Brown, but safety Eric Reid got there in time to break up the pass. Berry’s third punt of the day was boomed down to the 32 for 62 yards, with Allen making the tackle at the 36 after a four-yard return.
Following a false start, the 49ers got their explosive play on the final play of the third quarter as Davis found a spot in the zone thanks to blown coverage, picking up 43 yards. It was San Francisco’s first explosive play of the day. Bell caught the pass for a first down, and a penalty made it half the distance to the goal.
From the seven, James Harrison blew up Davis on a screen pass after a one-yard gain. On second down, Brandon Boykin dove to break up the pass to Smith streaking through the back of the end zone. A delay of game penalty set the 49ers back to the 11 on third down. Bud Dupree netted the Steelers’ fifth sack, his second of the year, setting up fourth and goal from the 14, with Kaepernick able to find Boldin in the end zone on the left sideline. The Steelers now lead 29-10.
After a touchback, Williams finally broke off a bit of a run, ending a three-and-out streak and picking up 16 yards. He got it again for three yards on the following play. Brown managed to get free from the first defender on a screen on his seventh reception for five yards. On third and two, Roethlisberger continued to go big on third down, looking downfield to hit Markus Wheaton for a 48-yard gain.
On first and goal from the eight, Williams picked up seven yards, and then finished the job for his third rushing touchdown as the Steelers answered quickly. Scobee’s extra point made it a 36-10 lead with 10:25 to play.
On first down after a touchback, Mike Davis picked up five yards up the middle. Smith beat Allen in coverage for a 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown. This is why you stay aggressive even with a big lead. Smith caught the two-point play over Blake’s head to bring the score to 36-18.
The offense will likely look to take the air out the ball now, the old-fashioned way, on the ground. Williams took the ball on first and second down to set up a third and three. Getting a free play on third down, Roethlisberger got aggressive once again, hitting Brown for a 56-yarder inside the red zone.
Back to the ground, Williams picked up 10 yards to set up another first and goal play. On the first and goal play, Roethlisberger smelled blood, going to the air and finding Brown in the far left corner of the end zone. The Steelers put up a 40-burger, now leading 43-18.
Kaepernick threw to Smith for a five-yard gain on first down, slow to get up as he heads off the field. Davis looked to have room on his carry, but was tripped up settling for a two-yard gain. Boldin was good down to the 35-yard line on third down.
Harrison nearly got to the quarterback on the next play, which went for a short gain, Shazier providing the big hit on the reception. He left the field. DeAndrew White was good for the first down to the 47. Under pressure from Jarvis Jones, Kaepernick got the pass off to Patton for a short gain out of bounds. On second down, White dragged Blake out of bounds for another first-down reception.
At the 37, Kaepernick threw across the field to Boldin to make a sideline grab, doing an excellent job of getting his feet down again. Vernon Davis limped off after a tackle by Gay on the next play. In the red zone, Mike Davis bounce off of a hit from Harrison to pick up three yards. On third and two, Patton made a sliding catch to set up first down goal on a ball thrown behind him.
From the six, Davis was stopped after getting half of the yardage necessary. On second down, Kaepernick was too deep on a pass to Boldin in the end zone. Four wide on third and goal, Kaepernick could not handle the blitz and fired off a poor pass out of bounds. Now fourth down, Kaepernick scrambled under pressure, but his knee was down before he crossed the goal line. The play was ruled a touchdown on the field, but was overturned upon review.
Michael Vick entered the game at quarterback with 2:35 remaining, starting at the one-yard line. Jordan Todman bounced off of defenders to scrape off the heap to pick up 11 yards, grinding the clock out to the two-minute warning, picking up the first down, and getting out of the shadow of the Steelers’ own goal line. Vick took a trio of knees with the 49ers having no timeouts remaining to clinch the victory, with Pittsburgh drawing even with a 1-1 record.