The Steelers' defense, which shut down the 49ers the same way they did the Browns (34-7) and Bills (26-3) the previous two weeks, allowing no big plays and holding star running back Frank Gore to 39 yards in 14 carries.
San Francisco's offense had plenty of chances to generate some scoring but couldn't get into the end zone until it was too late.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Modesto Bee
During an odd play in the third quarter, the 49ers successfully challenged a call that Vernon Davis fumbled on a tumbling catch inside the Pittsburgh 10 but lost a potentially important completion. Referee Gerald Austin overturned the fumble but ruled Davis didn't have possession before the ball came loose and called it an incompletion. The call meant that instead of again being in position for a touchdown, San Francisco settled for another field goal.
BY THE NUMBERS
4: The 49ers have four touchdowns in three games.
28: Pittsburgh extended its streak of not allowing a 100-yard runner to 28 games, dating to November 2005.
THEY SAID IT
"They have more people in the box right now (as opposed to last year), so we can't block everybody. When I see eight or nine men in the box, I just have to go, take one man and go straight ahead with him instead of trying to make a move on them."
-- Gore on being held under 100 yards in the first three games of the season
The game was much closer than the final score indicates. If the offense catches up to Nate Clements, Patrick Willis and Co., then an NFC West title is possible.