Let's be very clear about this. The 49ers offense should have scored more touchdowns. Mistakes abounded and that is not acceptable. Let's be clear about something else: When you're on the road against a better team, you can not afford to get hosed by the referees on every other call. There was the Nate Clements phantom hold, the Ben Roethlisberger throw away that should have been grounding and most egregious was the ruling of incomplete pass on the Vernon Davis reception, which would have given us first and goal. This was the worst officiating I have seen in an NFL game in quite some time.
With that little rant, I'm ready to move on. The 49ers were clearly the inferior team, but this game was not as bad as the final score would indicate. The Steelers ran away the game in the end after the 49ers made them work the first 3.5 quarters. The problem is that every jackass out there that thinks they can analyze a game based on the box score will think the Steelers dominated. Too them I give a big F YOU, I'm here to rally around the troops.
At the same time, the 49ers clearly have work to do and nobody is arguing that. As Moose Johnston said, Frank Gore can't carry this team. The offensive line is struggling in the run game and we need the passing game to show up a little more consistently. The team showed a lot more signs of aggressive play-calling, and yet after that first drive and before the last drive, the team just could not make things happen.
Some blogs are quick to dump on the team after a loss with a blame of the game. I have no problem criticizing, but I want to be consistent and provide game balls after every game as well, win or lose.
Nate Clements/Walt Harris - Originally this was just going to go to Nate Clements. Nate was all over the field making plays all day long with a couple of huge tackles in the backfield and some quality deflections. Then I realized Walt Harris was just as effective against the passing game, albeit rather quietly. Santonio Holmes and Hines combined on 4 catches for 51 yards (3/49 of those belonging to Holmes). One explanation for this might be Willie Parker having a very effective day, but I think Clements and Harris deserve credit for keeping the Steelers passing game from developing.
Andy Lee/Joe Nedney - When you drill a 66 yard punt a week after a 70-yarder, you get a game ball. And Nedney continues to be straight money. He drilled the 49-yarder after The Disease was screwed and continues to be the 49ers most consistent weapon.
The Disease - I'd like to think at some point 4 catches for 56 yards will be a disappointing day for Vernon Davis. For now though, the offense finally got Davis involved on a more regular basis. I really like the wide receiver screen they ran at the beginning of the game. For a guy with his size and speed, just get his hands on the ball any way you can and get out of the way.
All in all it sucks to lose, but this could have gone a lot worse for the 49ers. They learned they're obviously not at the level of the elite teams. However, they also learned that they can indeed compete with them....for at least 3+ quarters. The offense remains frustrating, the defense is much better than 37 points would indicate. I'm not nearly as pissed off about this loss as I probably could be.
The Week Ahead
A new postgame-recap feature will be a very brief look at the upcoming 49ers opponent. This coming weekend will be HUGE as the Seattle Seahawks come to town. They're playing the Bengals right now and a win would move them into a tie for first with the 49ers. It may only be Week 4, but divisional implications are aplenty.
In the meantime, I'll keep an eye out for word on Vernon Davis's injured knee. He looked ok, but I'll get an update as soon as I can.