San Francisco 49ers

Offseason issues prominent in 49ers’ loss in Pittsburgh

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula takes the field before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Pittsburgh.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula takes the field before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Pittsburgh. AP

Jim Tomsula’s 49ers have a practice each week he refers to as C&I – clean up and installation. The next one promises to be extra long after Sunday’s 43-18 drubbing by the Steelers.

“We were outplayed,” Tomsula said Monday. “I mean, out-coached. I mean, we lost. We lost the football game and all I’m talking about is, own it, fix it and move on.”

Three areas that were concerns in the offseason – pass defense, pass rush and pass protection – figured prominently in the loss.

The 49ers were all but out of the game by halftime after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected on nearly every deep pass he attempted. He had 252 yards and two touchdowns at the break and finished with 369 yards.

Early in the game, Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger’s favorite target and perhaps the NFL’s best receiver, ran a number of routes against cornerback Kenneth Acker, the least experienced defender on the field. Brown had five catches for 128 yards by halftime.

After the game, Tomsula said the 49ers used a variety of coverages and personnel groups in try to stop Brown. The scouting service Pro Football Focus, however, noted that 120 of Brown’s 195 receiving yards came when he was matched against Acker.

Tramaine Brock, in his sixth season, was asked why he wasn’t the primary cornerback assigned to Brown.

“We can do that. I’m fine with it,” Brock said. “But as the DC (defensive coordinator, Eric Mangini) – it’s his defense. I’ve got to do what I’m told to do.”

Another issue was the pass rush, which was excellent against the Vikings in Week 1. Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked or hit and the 49ers had only four quarterback hurries, two by first-round draft pick Arik Armstead, who played just 14 snaps. With time in the pocket, Roethlisberger connected on passes of 59, 56, 48, 41 and 35 yards.

On the other side, Colin Kaepernick had one of his best statistical games, with 335 yards and two touchdown passes. It’s the fourth time the 49ers quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards and his 71.7 percent completion rate was the best of the four outings.

But the 49ers’ offensive line allowed five sacks and eight quarterback hits. As was the case in the preseason, the right side of the line was particularly shaky.

Now the 49ers have to go on the road again, to play the 2-0 Cardinals whose quarterback, Carson Palmer, already has thrown seven touchdowns.

“We’ve got to make sure they’re not behind us.” Tomsula said of the 49ers’ pass defense. “We’ve got to make plays. We don’t want to give up the big play. I’ve been here for what, nine years? That’s always been what we talk about, what we pride ourselves in. We stop the run and prevent the big play.”

Et cetera – Tomsula said that in addition to a blow to the head, running back Carlos Hyde suffered a leg bruise on a low hit by Steelers safety Mike Mitchell. Hyde remained in the game and the injury is not considered serious.

▪ Tight end Vance McDonald (leg bruise), tight end Blake Bell (back) and receiver Torrey Smith (leg bruise) left the game for various stretches. McDonald’s injury is the most serious, Tomsula said, but none are expected to miss any significant time.

▪ Rookie tailback Mike Davis played 41 snaps, the bulk in the second half after Hyde departed. Jarryd Hayne, the only other running back in the game at that point, played four offensive snaps.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at

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