The Pittsburgh Steelers ripped another gaping hole in the San Francisco 49ers' tattered mystique.
Kordell Stewart, shaking free of his own early season problems, led five scoring drives as the Steelers beat the 49ers 27-6 on Sunday, San Francisco's fourth consecutive loss and second straight at home.
"We're going forward," said Steelers safety Lee Flowers. "We have the momentum and we're definitely playing well. Holding them to six points says a lot but it's not surprising because we know what we can do. We earned our respect today. They're sitting in their locker room all sad or whatever."
Jerome Bettis ran for touchdowns of 1 and 22 yards and Hines Ward caught a 13-yard scoring pass from Stewart, helping the Steelers (5-3) overcome rain and a sloppy field to win for the fourth time in five road games this season.
"It was cold. It was horrible. I don't have enough words to describe how bad it was out there. It was just not too pleasant," Stewart said. "But this is the best I've put the ball in the receivers' area to catch it."
Rookie Kris Brown added field goals of 38 and 28 yards, setting a league record for the most successful career start by a kicker with 13 field goals in a row. But he missed a 31-yard try in the fourth quarter when the ball hit the right upright and bounced away.
Despite a career-high 166 yards rushing on 20 carries by Charlie Garner, San Francisco's once vaunted offense was held without a touchdown for the second straight game. In the past three weeks, the 49ers (3-5) have reached the end zone just once in eight trips inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
"This is eating at me little by little," said Jerry Rice, for so long among San Francisco's chief playmakers but held to two catches for 2 yards by the Steelers.
"I have never been in a situation like this because we've been very productive over the years. It's hard to deal with, but you've just got to keep your chin high and hope something happens where we can turn it around."
The 49ers scoring output Sunday was their lowest at home since the Los Angeles Raiders beat them 9-3 on Nov. 13, 1988, and the loss to the Steelers extended their longest slide since an eight-game skid in 1980.
"We've just got to regroup and come back next week and try to get a win," Garner said.
Jeff Garcia was yanked in the fourth quarter in favor of Steve Stenstrom and fell to 1-4 as San Francisco's starter in place of injured Steve Young, almost certainly lost for the season after a concussion.
"We missed some throws and ended up kicking field goals again. We've got to find a way to get in the end zone. We just haven't scored enough touchdowns," said San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci.
Mariucci said the 49ers switched quarterbacks in the fourth quarter to try to get a spark and would decide later this week whether to start Stenstrom over Garcia at New Orleans next Sunday.
Since winning his first NFL start against Tennessee five weeks ago, Garcia has gotten progressively worse and he was no match for the Steelers' second-ranked defense, finishing 7-of-18 for just 39 yards.
"I definitely believe I could have played better," Garcia said.
Garcia appeared jumpy in the pocket and often rushed passes, leading to several overthrows, including one near the end zone that sailed over a wide-open Terrell Owens. One play later, the 49ers settled for Wade Richey's second field goal, a 20-yarder.
Richey also converted a 19-yard field goal in the first quarter after San Francisco got close on Lawrence Phillips' 75-yard kickoff return.
Stenstrom had the 49ers on the move in the fourth quarter until he was picked off by Scott Shields.
The Stelers punctuated the win when Bettis shook loose for a 22-yard score with 3:15 left, getting a roar from several thousand towel-waving Steelers fans in the nearly deserted stadium.
"Our fans are as tough as we are. It was great to see them, especially at the end," said Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland, who had 11 tackles.
Said Mariucci: "They have a good following, no question about it. We've got to give our fans something to cheer about and a reason to stay the entire game."
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