There were more missed tackles than usual from a 49ers team that usually wraps up very well. But, all in all, it's difficult to poke many holes in an defensive performance that limited an AFC playoff team to two field-goal attempts.
The 49ers gave up 389 total yards, but came away with four takeaways. The Steelers settled for two field-goal attempts, and went 1-for-2 on those tries.
Here is the entire defensive player-by-player review from the 49ers' 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night:
90-Isaac Sopoaga: Started at nose tackle, and played most of the base downs . . . He recorded two tackles, and did a good job of controlling center Doug Legursky, who started for the injured Maurkice Pouncey.
91-Ray McDonald: Started at left defensive end, and was credited with two tackles and a half-sack with a forced fumble. . . . Called for encroachment in second quarter. . . . Spun off right guard Raymond Foster to get penetration to help stop running back Rashard Mendenhall for 2 yards on a second-and-4 play in third quarter. . . .Working against Legursky, he kept working to strip quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the football for a fourth-quarter turnover.
93-Ian Williams: Inactive (coaches' decision). (Follow on Twitter @IWilliams95)
94-Justin Smith: Started at right defensive end and had an outstanding all-around game. He had three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery, but he also set up Aldon Smith for a couple of sacks. . . Left guard Trai Essex held him for a 10-yard penalty to wipe out a 6-yard gain in the second quarter. . . .Fought through left side of Steelers line and Mendenhall to pressure Roethlisberger into second-quarter incompletion. . . . Recovered fourth-quarter fumble that directly led to 49ers touchdown in fourth quarter. . . Generously gave himself up to tie up Essex so that Aldon Smith could record a 6-yard sack. . . Justin Smith did the same thing on the next series, resulting in another Aldon Smith sack.
95-Ricky Jean Francois: Entered as a backup at nose tackle, and was not credited with any tackles. (Follow on Twitter @Freakyjean95)
96-Demarcus Dobbs: Saw play time on special teams.Linebackers
51-Blake Costanzo: Played on the special teams, and was part of the coverage units that kept the clamps on the Steelers return game. (Follow on Twitter @BlakeCostanzo51)
52-Patrick Willis: Inactive (hamstring). He continues to rehab and is "hopeful" he'll be able to play Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. (Follow on Twitter @PatrickWillis52)
53-NaVorro Bowman: Started at the "mike" linebacker position, and had a strong game with eight tackles, including two stops behind the line of scrimmage. . . . Had good leverage on Mewelde Moore to force him out of bounds for a 2-yard loss on a pass play. . . Did a good job of attacking the line of scrimmage and filling the gaps. (Follow on Twitter @NBowman53)
54-Larry Grant: Started at the "jack" linebacker in place of Willis, and responded with another strong showing. He recorded five tackles and broke up four passes. . . . Got up high to bat down pass in the middle of the field that would've gone for a big gain to receiver Antonio Brown. . . Deflected Roethlisberger pass at line of scrimmage on a second-quarter blitz. . . . Attacked line of scrimmage to stop running back Isaac Redman for no gain on a third-quarter draw play, then broke up short pass to Miller on next play. (Follow on Twitter @LarryGrant54)
55-Ahmad Brooks: Started at left outside linebacker, and recorded six tackles while setting the edge against the run. . . . Stacked up receiver Jerricho Cotchery to allow Grant to stop Mendenhall for a 1-yard loss in the third quarter. . . In coverage against tight end Heath Miller on wheel route that picked up 39 yards in third quarter. . . On next play, fought off Essex to help stop Mendenhall for 1-yard loss.
56-Tavares Gooden: Played solely on special teams, and made tackle of Brown for minus-10 yard punt return. He had two special-teams tackles in the game.
98-Parys Haralson: Started at left outside linebacker, and recorded three tackles as he played most of the team's base downs. . . Came up and missed tackle on Mendenhall to allow him to pick up 13 yards on short pass.
99-Aldon Smith: Entered the game in nickel situations, and recorded 2.5 sacks with an astounding seven quarterback pressures. . . . Shoved back left tackle Max Starks for sack that was wiped out by defensive holding penalty down the field. . . . Got pressure on back-to-back incomplete passes in third quarter to force Steelers failed field goal attempt. . . . Again, shoved Starks backward and discarded him to get sack of Roethlisberger. McDonald also got there to be credited with a forced fumble. . . Took advantage of Justin Smith's play to wipe out the left guard Essex and then he avoided blitz pickup of Redman to record 6-yard sack in fourth quarter. The Smith's teammed up for a similar play, and another Aldon Smith sack, on the next possession. (Follow on Twitter @AldonSmithJETS)Defensive backs
20-Madieu Williams: Played exclusively on special teams, and made tackle on opening kickoff. (Follow on Twitter @MadieuWilliams)
22-Carlos Rogers: Started at left cornerback, and came through with a strong game. . . . Provided big play on opening drive when he undercut receiver Mike Wallace to intercept Roethlisberger on the opening drive. He returned it 31 yards. It was his sixth interception of the season. . . Had good coverage on deep ball that fell incomplete to Wallace in second qiarter.
25-Tarell Brown: Started at right cornerback, and also played very well. . . . Made nice play to break up pass down the field on third-and-11 to Mike Wallace in third quarter. . . . Had perfect deep zone coverage on Wallace to record interception in end zone in fourth quarter. (Follow on Twitter @RealTB25)
26-Tramaine Brock: Inactive (coaches' decision). (Follow on Twitter @T26Brock)
27-C.J. Spillman: He was on the field as part of a seven-DB lineup for final play of first half. Allowed Antonio Brown to catch 24-yard pass but quickly tackled him as the half ended. . . . He also recorded one tackle on special teams. (Follow on Twitter @CJSPILLMAN27)
29-Chris Culliver: Played as the 49ers third cornerback, and saw a lot of action with five tackles. . . . The Steelers targeted him initially. Missed tackle on Mike Wallace on on opening series that enabled him to pick up final 30 yards of a 36-yard pass play. . . Had coverage on a crossing route that went for 7 yards to Brown on a third-and-4. . . Got his hand on a slant to Brown to break up a pass on the second drive. (Follow on Twitter @Cullyinthehouse)
30-Reggie Smith: Made two tackles on defense in limited time as a 49ers dime back. . . He was blocking Keenan Lewis in front of Kyle Williams on punt and ball appeared to hit Smith's arm. He was bailed out, though, as Lewis was called for penalty, interference with opportunity to make catch. (Follow on Twitter @superreg30)
31-Donte Whitner: Started at strong safety, and recorded three tackles. . . Good coverage on deep ball to Wallace in the second quarter for an incomplete pass. . . . Tight coverage but could prevent Miller from picking up 11 yards on a second-and-11 in third quarter. (Follow on Twitter @DonteWhitner)
36-Shawntae Spencer: Was active for a second game in a row, and saw a handful of snaps as a sixth defensive back. Spencer was credited with one tackle as he ran Brown out of bounds after a 5-yard gain on a third-and-3 play.
38-Dashon Goldson: Started at free safety, and made seven tackles and intercepted his sixth pass of the season. . . . Missed tackle on Mendenhall on second play of the game, allowing him to pick up 7 yards. Also had a shot on Wallace on a play that went for 36 yards on opening drive. . . . Made good adjustment to intercept pass that glanced off right end Heath Miller's fingers on Steelers second drive. He returned the interception 21 yards to set up the 49ers' second field goal. . . After Cotchery bounced off a couple 49ers defenders, Goldson got a handful of his jersey to keep the third-quarter damage to a 36-yard gain. The Steelers did not score on the drive. (Follow on Twitter @thehawk38)
43-Colin Jones: Played exclusively on special teams, and did a good job of staying in his lanes to help close down options for Steelers' return game.Specialists
2-David Akers: He broke a 49ers record previously held by Jerry Rice for most points in a season. Akers made field goals of 22 and 38 yards, and added two PATS, to give him 143 points on the season. He also did a good job on kickoffs, as the Steelers' average start point was the 21-yard line. (Follow on Twitter @DavidAkers2)
4-Andy Lee: It's not often that a punter has a better net average than gross average. But that's what Lee and his coverage unit did Monday night. Lee averaged 47.5 yards on six punts with a 49.2 net average. He kept the Steelers' offense pinned back throughout the game. . . Landed first punt at the 5-yard line late in the first half. . . . Had a net 67 yards punt (57-yard punt and minus-10 yard return) late in fourth quarter. (Follow on Twitter @Andy4lee)
86-Brian Jennings: He handled the long-snapping duties without incident. (Follow on Twitter @Jennings141)