Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Keys To Winning Monday Night Against the 49ers

Joseph BrunoCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Keys To Winning Monday Night Against the 49ers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers would have clinched a playoff spot if Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber had not fumbled in overtime against the Denver Broncos setting up their game-winning field goal.

    Even though it's not official, the Steelers would have to collapse to miss the playoffs, and they should be focused on winning the rest of their games.

    If the Steelers win their last three games, and the Ravens lose once, the Steelers would actually win the AFC North and possibly the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

    Either way, if the Steelers win this week, they clinch a spot in the playoffs.

    Here are five keys to beating the 10-3 San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.

Keep Ben Clean

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    When I saw Ben Roethlisberger go down against the Browns, I swore that he had broken his ankle and would be out for the rest of the season.

    There's no doubt in my mind that Ben will play against the 49ers on Monday night. However, the offensive line needs to protect him even if Maurkice Pouncey has to sit out.

    Ben is not going to be as mobile as he usually is, and it's up to the offensive line to make sure no defenders get a chance to hit his ankle.

Run the Football

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    Something that would go a long way in helping to protect Ben would be if he actually had a running game against the 49ers.

    San Francisco has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season, however, with Ben being hobbled, the Steelers cannot let him try and throw it 50 times.

    The offensive line needs to have a great game, and they need to open up holes for the running backs as well as keeping Ben on his feet.

Rush the Passer

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    The Steelers need to be able to rush the passer this week even if LaMarr Woodley has a setback or if James Harrison gets suspended.

    The 49ers have given up at least five sacks or more in all three of their losses this season and have lost two out of their last three games.

    Whether it's Woodley, Harrison, Timmons or Jason Worilds, the Steelers need to get to the quarterback against the 49ers.

Stop Frank Gore

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    Frank Gore is the core of the 49ers offense, and he has failed to gain more than 72 yards in each of the 49ers three losses.

    The Steelers' rush defense started out slow this season. However, they are now ranked sixth and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 4 against the Houston Texans.

    Stopping Frank Gore will put all the pressure on quarterback Alex Smith who has failed to throw a touchdown pass in two out of his last three games.

Stop Stupid Turnovers and Penalties

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    The Steelers may have won the game against the Browns however, they had three more turnovers in two fumbles and an interception.

    Both fumbles by Hines Ward and Heath Miller killed drives that could have put the game away early and kept the score close going into the second half.

    The Steelers also had 12 penalties for 97 yards in this game, and if they want to beat a better team in the 49ers, they need to stop with these stupid mistakes.