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Pittsburgh Steelers utilized vertical-passing attack to shred 49ers

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Ben Roethlisberger threw for 369 yards on just 21 completions in a 43-18 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

Ben Roethlisberger executed Todd Haley's plan to attack the 49ers with vertical passes to perfection.
Ben Roethlisberger executed Todd Haley's plan to attack the 49ers with vertical passes to perfection.
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers' offense utilized the vertical-passing attack to crush the visiting San Francisco 49ers 43-18 at Heinz Field on Sunday. The 49ers' secondary had no answer for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his plethora of speedy weapons, who seemingly marched the ball up and down the field at will.

Roethlisberger completed 21 of 27 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns, while wide receiver Antonio Brown finished with nine receptions for a whopping 195 yards and a touchdown. Markus Wheaton added two receptions for 67 yards, and Darius Heyward-Bey chipped in with four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, in what was easily his best game in a Steelers' uniform.

After watching a stout 49ers' front-seven limit Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to just 31 yards on 10 carries in Week 1, Steelers' Head Coach Mike Tomlin and offensive Coordinator Todd Haley devised a game plan to exploit San Francisco's secondary with deep passes.

The 49ers' safeties Antoine Bathea and Eric Reid are both physical, hard-hitting players who excel against the run, but they could not match the speed of Brown, Heyward-Bey and Wheaton. First-year starting cornerback Kenneth Acker was tormented by Brown, who averaged 21.7 yards per reception on the day.

"It was a learning experience for myself, personally," Acker told Paul Guitierrez of ESPN.com.

"He's a quick receiver. It was my first time playing against him. It was quality work out there and I felt like I won some battles and lost some battles, so I learned. That's the best thing about it."

Brown has now caught at least five passes for 50 yards in 34 straight games. The All-Pro receiver also made history on Sunday, hauling in his 400th-career reception on a 28-yard pass from Roethlisberger in the first quarter.

Haley implemented a variety of max protections, and the Steelers' offensive line did an impressive job allowing Roethlisberger time to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball to his receivers. Per ESPN.com, Roethlisberger was 5 of 6 for 239 yards and a touchdown on throws of more than 30 yards downfield. More importantly, he was not sacked in the game.

Next on the schedule for the Steelers is the St. Louis Rams (1-1), a team with a defense built similarly to the 49ers. Even with the return of All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell, look for Tomlin and Haley to implement a similar game plan and attack the Rams' secondary in order to soften up its formidable front-seven.