Alex Smith is not Tom Brady, but he is no Rex Grossman either. No one should be surprised that the 49ers lost at Pittsburgh last Sunday 37-16. Smith finally threw for a touchdown but also had a costly interception. The 49ers are sitting pretty at 2-1 and tied with first place with the Seahawks as they head into a pivotol battle this Sunday against Seattle at home.
The key to Sunday's game will be getting Frank Gore back on track. Gore needs to get at least 100 yards and a touchdown. The defense has been playing well all year and kept the team in the game last week. Nate Clements will have to shutdown WR Deion Branch and the defense must not let Shaun Alexander run wild. Alexander is still a great running back, but he is nicked up and does not possess the speed of Willie Parker. Parker was the player who gave the 49ers defense fits all game long in Pittsburgh. TE Vernon Davis will be out for at least two weeks so WR Darrell Jackson must step up against his former teammates.
The loss to Pittsburgh was not surprising as the Steelers are one of the top three teams in the AFC with a great defense. No one expected rookie coordinator, Jim Hostler, to outcoach veteran defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, who is one of the best coordinators in the game. Hostler was overmatched in this battle. Instead of running Gore up the middle countless times, he should have called for more screen passes and sweeps. Everyone knows that Casey Hampton is a big run-stuffing tackle and yards would be hard to come by in the middle. I am sure the Seahawks will be ready for a double reverse by a wide reciever as Hostler likes to call that play at least once in a game. Although Smith threw 35 times, he should have attempted 50 passes. How about spreading the Steelers defense out by putting four WRs on the field? I guess Hostler never thought of that. Hostler decided to have Smith roll out of the pocket a few times, but the Steelers were disciplined and were always in position to make the tackles or disrupt Smith enough to make him hurry his throws.
This is the third offensive coordinator in three years for Smith and that has to be hard for him. Norv Turner was a perfect tutor for Smith but the Chargers made the mistake of making him their head coach. Turner is a great coordinator but a terrible head coach. The 49ers miss his creative play-calling and experience which Hostler does not yet have. Unfortunately for the 49ers Faithful, Smith and Hostler will experience growing pains together throughout the season.