The 49ers defense gave up a few big plays to the Steelers Monday night, but they made big plays of their own when it really counted.
The game-changing plays started early. With the Steelers threatening on the opening drive of the game, Carlos Rogers picked off a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the end zone.
Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith combined to smother Big Ben early in the 4th quarter, causing the hobbled quarterback to fumble the ball into the hands of Justin Smith.
The nail in the Steelers’ coffin was an slashing interception by defensive back Tarell Brown, jumping in front of Mike Wallace near the goal line. It was one of those “wow” plays.
Simply put, one of the best defenses in the league put on an impressive performance. It was the kind of showing the Niners needed on a national stage. After last week’s unacceptable loss to Arizona, the 49ers needed to regain their mojo. They needed to prove they could play with the big boys.
Rookie Aldon Smith is announcing his presence with authority, recording 2 1/2 sacks against the Steelers. He now has 13 on the season, a new team record for sacks by a rookie. Jim Harbaugh struck gold with that 1st round pick.
But while the defense made flashy plays to kill the Steelers’ momentum, they did give up a number of big passing plays. Despite a severely sprained ankle, Roethlisberger threw for 330 yards, including six completions of 20 yards or longer.
The 49ers haven’t done much wrong this season, but they will need to tighten up that pass defense as they head into potential playoff matchups with the Saints and the Packers, two teams with powerful, relentless passing attacks.