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Steelers burn 49ers' secondary all day long

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in a conference call this week that he did not think the San Francisco 49ers' secondary was particularly tested in their dominant season-opening victory.

Was Tomlin taking a shot at the 49ers' defensive backs or paying a tribute, of sorts, to the job the Niners’ front seven did in harassing Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater?

If Tomlin administered a test on Sunday at Heinz Field, the defensive backs failed in a 43-18 Pittsburgh victory over the 49ers. That was especially the case on third down, when the Steelers passed for 244 of their 369 yards.

"We obviously don't need to be letting people throw things over our head," said Niners coach Jim Tomsula.

Too late.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 369 yards and completed 21 of 27 passes with three touchdowns, and he was 5-of-6 for 239 yards and a TD on throws more than 30 yards downfield, the most such completions in a game in the past 10 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Antonio Brown caught nine passes for 195 yards and a 7-yard TD, and extended his NFL record for games with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards to 34 games -- before halftime.

Darrius Heyward-Bey had four receptions for 77 yards, including a 35-yard TD catch.

And even Markus Wheaton had two catches for 67 yards, perhaps the most telling the 48-yarder he hauled in on third down with linebacker Michael Wilhoite in single coverage down the field, after which Wilhoite waved wildly in anger at whichever defensive back left him alone.

"That's my favorite part about it," Roethlisberger said. "You include everybody. I wish that everybody could get touchdowns. I wish that everybody could catch for 100 yards ... you try to include everybody."

The deep ball was particularly troublesome for the 49ers.

"I made the plays that I could," NaVorro Bowman said, when asked how he thought he played. "They threw the ball over my head several times and I can't do anything about that. I got the right calls made and I did my job."

First-year starting cornerback Kenneth Acker took the baptism by fire, much as Jimmie Ward did last season against then-Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.

"It was a learning experience for myself personally," Acker said.

"He's a quick receiver. It was my first time playing against him. It was quality work out there and I felt like I won some battles and lost some battles, so I learned. That's the best thing about it."

Here was a major difference as well: Last week, the 49ers blitzed the Vikings with aplomb -- a head-spinning 35 percent of their defensive snaps.

This week, the Niners could not get to Roethlisberger, and when they did blitz, obviously leaving a receiver uncovered, the Steelers quarterback simply picked them apart.

"It was a nice plan by the Steelers, too," Tomsula said. "There were max protections. They were maxing up and getting that thing down the field. Our response didn't match what they did. We've got to do a better job. That's what happened."