SANTA CLARA – What the 49ers saw Sunday from the Pittsburgh Steelers was probably just the beginning.
There is little doubt that if Carson Palmer has time to throw on Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals face the 49ers, he will look repeatedly for the home-run ball.
“I look at it as a challenge,” 49ers cornerback Kenneth Acker said on Thursday. “I know the ball is going to come. It was going to come even if we had a good game against the Steelers. It’s what they do, and I know they’re not going to skew away from anything they’ve been doing because it’s effective and it works for them.
“Carson Palmer has an arm. I’m definitely expecting them to try us deep and stay in their offense.”
The 49ers’ defense gave up pass plays of 28, 41, 59, 35, 48 and 56 yards to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown was on the receiving end of those of those passes as part of his nine-catch, 195-yard performance.
“I thought they made some really good plays,” 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said. “Those are two outstanding players and there are things we could’ve done better from a performance perspective and better from a coaching perspective. It’s collective when you have plays like that.”
Acker, making his second NFL appearance after spending his rookie season on injured reserve with a stress fracture in his foot, received a stiff challenge after a 20-3 opening-game victory over Minnesota.
Acker had underneath coverage on two of those big plays to Brown with safety Eric Reid playing the deep half in a two-deep zone. Acker said he feels he could have gotten his hands on Brown within the 5-yard contact zone to prevent a free release.
“Any time we got beat, I looked at it, analyzed it, and talked to some of the older guys and asked what I could’ve done better in certain situations,” Acker said. “(And) I told them what they could’ve done in certain situations to help me out a little bit. We got to correct it real fast.”
Mangini said he was pleased with that kind of analytical approach from his players as they regroup to face the Cardinals.
“The group as a whole has responded really well,” Mangini said. “They came in, it was a sense of purpose to make sure that we saw what the problems were and what we had to get fixed to see where we had to improve collectively and where each guy can improve individually.
“It’s such a copy-cat league, like anything else. When you get hit on something, the next team will and the team after that will. Until you go out and show it’s fixed, they’ll keep pressing.”