PITTSBURGH –- The 49ers’ short week quickly turned into a long day.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense completely shredded an overmatched 49ers’ defense on Sunday with a first-half aerial display that turned into a 43-18 victory at Heinz Field and spoiled the homecoming of 49ers coach Jim Tomsula to his hometown.
For the 49ers, it was a confluence of events that sent them down the river -– take your pick, either of the nearby Monongahela, Allegheny or Ohio -– after opening the season six days earlier with a strong showing against the Minnesota Vikings.
The 49ers lacked a pass rush. Their secondary could not keep up with wide receiver Antonio Brown (and others). And the 49ers’ offense failed to get anything going, as well. The Steelers opened the season on Thursday of Week 1, and they certainly looked like the team that was most fresh and better prepared.
Perhaps the 49ers’ only hope came after the Steelers went up 8-0 on Roethlisberger’s two-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller with a two-point conversion pass to Brown.
The 49ers put together an impressive drive on which the 49ers had a first-and-goal situation at the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. But then the 49ers got stuck in reverse.
Right tackle Erik Pears was called for holding to set them back 10 yards. Torrey Smith caught a pass from Kaepernick that resulted in a three-yard loss, then Kaepernick’s pass to Carlos Hyde lost another four yards. On a third-and-goal from the 22, Kaepernick was sacked for a seven-yard loss.
Phil Dawson accounted for the 49ers’ only first-half points with a 47-yard field goal.
After forcing the Steelers to punt on their first offensive series, the 49ers were ripped apart thereafter.
Pittsburgh scored four touchdowns on its next 22 offensive plays before the end of the first half.
Running back DeAngelo Williams, filling in for Le’Veon Bell during his two-game suspension, scored three short rushing touchdowns. But it was the 49ers had no answers for Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing game.
Brown caught five passes in the first half for 128 yards, including a 59-yarder against Kenneth Acker and Eric Reid that set up one of Williams’ touchdown runs. Darius Heyward-Bey got wide open deep between safeties Reid and Antoine Bethea for a 35-yard touchdown catch.
Hyde fumbled an exchange from Kaepernick on a run play, and Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier recovered at the San Francisco 42 to set up their final touchdown of the first half.
Roethlisberger finished his day with 21 of 27 passing for 369 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Brown had nine receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown.
Kaepernick completed 33 of 46 passes for 335 yards with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and no interceptions.
Hyde evaluated: Hyde exited in the third quarter to be evaluated for a possible concussion. He returned to the sideline a short time later, indicating that he tested negative for concussion. He did not return to the game.
Hyde carried the ball 14 times for 43 yards, and caught four passes for 18 yards, before leaving the game. The 49ers announced his return to the game as “questionable.”
Hyde’s last running attempt before leaving the game came with 12:38 remaining in the third quarter. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier stopped him for a 2-yard loss.
Rookie Mike Davis replaced Hyde in the backfield on the 49ers’ next possession.
Return game: Bruce Ellington (ankle) and Reggie Bush (calf) were inactive due to injuries. The 49ers turned the return chores over to Jarryd Hayne and DeAndrew White.
White, an undrafted rookie from Alabama, returned his first kickoff from 8 yards deep in the end zone. He was stopped at the 13-yard line. Hayne had a fair catch in the first half. His first return came in the third quarter when he stumbled and went down after 7 yards.
Tight ends injured: Tight end Vance McDonald sustained a right knee injury while covering a punt in the second quarter. He did not return to action. McDonald started for the second time in two games, as the 49ers again opened with three tight ends.
In the fourth quarter, rookie tight end Blake Bell after an 11-yard reception. Steelers safety Will Allen was called for unnecessary roughness for his hit on a “defenseless” player. Bell returned to action.
This ‘n’ that: In addition to Bush and Ellington, the 49ers chose to deactivate cornerback Shareece Wright, offensive linemen Nick Easton and Brandon Thomas, defensive lineman Mike Purcell and outside linebacker Corey Lemonier. . . The 49ers trailed 29-3 at halftime, their largest deficit after two quarters since falling behind the Vikings 27-0 in 2007. . . The 49ers had an 18-play drive in the third quarter that did not result in any points. The 49ers kept the drive alive with two fourth-down conversions. It appeared as if they had another for a touchdown, but fullback Bruce Miller did not hold onto possession of the ball after going out of bounds. . . Through three quarters, the 49ers led in time of possession 29:25 to 15:35. But the 49ers trailed 29-3. . . The 49ers’ touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal play from the 14, on which Anquan Boldin got both feet inbounds to complete a touchdown pass from Kaepernick, who had a streak of 147 consecutive fourth-quarter passing attempts without a touchdown pass. . . Kaepernick threw his second touchdown pass a short while later, hooking up with Torrey Smith on a 75-yard touchdown pass. Kaepernick and Smith also teamed up for the two-point conversion.