49ers' Gore Hopes to Snap Steelers' Defensive Streak

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If Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau didn't have a captive audience when he addressed the subject of stopping 49ers running back Frank Gore with his players last week, all he had to was pop in a tape of San Francisco's 17-16 win over St. Louis.

On a fourth-and-1 from the Rams' 43-yard line last Sunday, Gore burst through the line and ran into a host of Rams defenders. Like any good back -- and Gore might be the best in the NFC -- he kept his legs churning and broke free. He made a few nifty cuts and galloped to the end zone.

LeBeau could have stopped the tape right there and asked, "Any questions?"

There aren't many, if any, regarding Gore, who will run into one of the NFL's best run defenses today -- and that could turn out to be the case literally since the Steelers give up 100 rushing yards in a game to a back about as often as there is a Halley's Comet sighting.

The last time it happened was in late November 2005 when Edgerrin James, then of the Colts, rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries.

"And then," nose tackle Casey Hampton said, "we shut him down in the playoffs."

How well the 2-0 Steelers are able to contain the 5-9, 223-pound Gore will be the most intriguing game within the game when they play the also undefeated 49ers today at Heinz Field.

The third-year pro had a breakout season in 2006 rushing for 1,695 yards, tops in the NFC and the best single-season rushing mark in 49ers history. He also led San Francisco with 61 receptions last season and finished with 2,180 yards from scrimmage.

"When God invented football and said 'I want a running back to do this,' that's what Frank Gore is," said former Penn State star Michael Robinson, who is one of Gore's backups. "He can make every run, he has great hands, his footwork is awesome and he can block. It's hard to put into words some of the things he does because he's so gifted naturally as a running back."

Not that he acts like it.

Gore has gotten into the habit of calling Mike Nolan on the 49ers coach's cell phone after games to get a critique. When he went to the Pro Bowl last February, Gore spent part of the time peppering top running backs with questions of all kinds.

Proof of that was evident when the Chargers sent the 49ers DVDs of LaDainian Tomlinson giving press conferences so Gore could study the polished Chargers' star in that area.

Gore's drive can probably best be seen on the field as he continually fights for extra yards as if he were fighting for a roster spot.

"He's got the heart," Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said of Gore. …