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Aldon Smith sacks Roethlisberger and Justin Smith recovers the fumble
Early in the game, the Steelers' offensive line did a good job protecting Ben Roethlisberger, who played with a very bad ankle injury. His mobility was virtually nonexistent, but Pittsburgh kept the 49ers off balance with a good mix of runs and quick passes.
Once the 49ers increased their 6-0 lead to 13-3 late in the third quarter, it became open season on Roethlisberger. 49ers' rookie Aldon Smith constantly pressured Roethlisberger and ended up with 2.5 of the 49ers' three sacks.
Smith set a 49ers' single season record for rookies with 13 sacks on the season. He and fellow defensive lineman Justin Smith constantly pressured the Steelers' quarterback and pummeled him on virtually every play.
I was surprised that Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin kept Roethlisberger in the game late in the fourth quarter, when the outcome of this contest was no longer in doubt. He exposed his quarterback to a lot of additional punishment and risked further injury to him.
The 49ers' were able to get this tremendous pressure on Roethlisberger with their four core pass rushers. This meant they did not have to blitz much and could use the other seven defenders in pass coverage.
Aldon Smith had his best game as a 49er, and the television crew were comparing him to Charles Haley and Fred Dean—great 49er pass rushers of the past.