How will 'young' 49ers respond to blowout loss?

PITTSBURGH -- A nattily attired NaVorro Bowman stood at the podium in his mauve and purple suit, took a deep breath and wondered aloud.

Indeed, the San Francisco 49ers had just been undressed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 43-18 demolition.

“I want to see how we respond to this,” Bowman said.

He’s not the only one.

The key here, then, is to keep perspective. Because while the 49ers may not be as bad as they looked at Heinz Field on Sunday -- they were, after all, coming off a short week in which they traveled cross country to take on an emotional team playing its home opener on 10-day’s rest -- they’re probably not as good as they looked in dominating the Minnesota Vikings, 20-3, last Monday night, either.

It’s all about perspective. So sure, the 49ers should hope they react better to this blowout than they did to that Vikings victory.

“We’ve got one great win and one horrible loss,” deadpanned strong safety Antoine Bethea. “The great thing is, we’ve got a game next week.”

No doubt. But it’s on the road. At a divisional rival. Against a 2-0 Arizona Cardinals team that just dropped 48 points on the Chicago Bears. In Chicago.

Reality check? The 49ers simply need to heed the advice of coach Jim Tomsula, who told his players at halftime to keep their heads down, keep grinding and playing hard and ignore the scoreboard.

Tomsula also worked the postgame locker room by offering a handshake and asking, “How’s your body?” before moving on to the next player.

“We’re not going to overreact when we win,” Tomsula said. “We’re not going to overreact when there is a loss.”

Fair enough, but after dominating the Vikings defensively with an array of blitzing and sacking Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater four times, the 49ers could not touch Ben Roethlisberger.

The 49ers had zero sacks and zero quarterback hits.

No wonder, then, that Roethlisberger, who passed for 369 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 155.8, torched the 49ers' defense when he wasn’t picking it apart on the occasional blitz. He was 5-for-6 for 239 yards and a touchdown on throws of more than 30 yards downfield, the most such completions in a game in the past 10 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

And receiver Antonio Brown, who had 195 yards on nine catches, caught three of four throws that were at least 15 yards downfield.

Besides any mental adjustments the 49ers have to make before facing Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals, they also have to get over what happened to their defense.

In recent years, that would not have been a question.

“You’re comparing this team to what we did in the past,” said Bowman, who had four tackles. “We had probably eight or nine vets on our defense.”

And now, for the obligatory roll call of defensive starters the 49ers have lost since last December: Ray McDonald, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Aldon Smith, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox, not to mention Dan Skuta, who started more often than not.

“We just need to respond,” Bowman said. “This is the NFL. We took losses before, but it’s all about how you respond. We’re taking a loss like this and we’re a young team.

“It’s my job, and the veterans’ job, to get the young guys ready and prepared so we can move on from this.”

The Cardinals await.