49ers Dominate Steelers

What an impressive debut to the season!  The 49ers just reminded everyone who they are.  They marched into one of the most hostile stadiums in the NFL and sucked the life out of it thru precision offense and a smash mouth defense.  The Steelers are always a tough out.  They are talented and well coached.  The Niners are simply better….ALOT better.

The defensive line dominated the Steelers most of the game.  Drake Jackson kicked off the SACK party by taking down Kenny Pickett on the Steelers first third down of their first possession.  Over the course of the game Pickett would be felled by Kerry Hyder Jr., and Javon Hargrave.  Jackson would also sack Pickett twice more.  The defensive line collected five sack’s total.

We all can’t wait until Nick Bosa is in game shape.  Having tough inside defenders allows the outside defenders to eat.  Of note, Drake Jackson’s last sack came late in the game on a tackle end stunt where Jackson blew past the Steelers guard felling Pickett.  The defensive line is stout and multiple.  They even can run a five-man front.  During the Steelers second possession, on second down, the Niners lined up five defensive lineman and Fred Warner came down hill and smashed into Najeh Harris for a loss on the play.

The Steelers also collected their fair share of sacks.  The best Steeler on the field was T.J. Watt.  He beat Colton McKivitz three times to take down Brock Purdy.  He also forced two fumbles collecting one.  T.J. Watt is a one-man wrecking crew, but he wasn’t enough to stop the 49ers offense.

Early in the game Kyle Shanahan had tough decision to make.  It was 4th and one on Pittsburg’s 45-yard line.  It is important for the offense to have confidence early in the game.  He put Kittle on the move running right to left at the snap of the football, and Purdy found him in the flat.  Kittle turned it up field for a first down.  Three plays later Purdy finds Aiyuk on an 8-yard end cut in the endzone for a touchdown.

The secondary had a decent day as well.  On the Steeler’s second offensive possession, Charvarius Ward picked off Pickett on third down.  Though the Steelers held the Niners to three points, it was an important tone-setting turnover.  Late the game, Warner tipped the ball into Talanoa Hufanga’s hands who almost ran it back for six.  That was Warner’s second dropped interception of the game.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95) celebrates after a defensive stop during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Patrick Peterson talked the talk but couldn’t walk the walk.  Though he defensed a couple of Purdy’s passes to Juan Jennings and George Kittle, he failed when it mattered.  During the opening drive of the second quarter, Brock Purdy threw a perfect back shoulder pass to Brandon Aiyuk in the endzone for a 19-yard touchdown.

The only score the 49ers allowed occurred with 1:35 left in the first half.  Kenny Pickett orchestrated a near flawless two-minute drill as he drove his team from the Steelers own five yard line to the endzone.  They used every bit of the clock.  With 39 seconds to go, it was fourth and three and Coach Tomlin opted to go for it.  His gamble paid off.  The Steelers went into the locker-room with hope, but it was to be short lived.

The 49ers started with the ball in the second half.  It was a two-play drive.  The first play was a 10-yard strike to Deebo Samuel.  The second play was a magnificent 65-yard hardnosed run by Christian McCaffrey for a touchdown.  McCaffrey took the hand off, bounced off a would-be tackler and began to turn it up field.  Just as he cleared the second level of defenders, Aiyuk shows up out of nowhere and blows up the Steelers safety, keeps his feet and continues to lead the way for McCaffrey.  The pair were soon joined by Ray Ray McCloud who blocked another defender allowing McCaffrey to choose his direction.  It was a marvelous display of unselfish teamwork.  Overall, McCaffrey had 152 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.  He did a lot of dirty work.  Really it was 21 carries for 87 yards and one massive explosive.  He also collected three receptions.

Jake Moody was put to the test today.  He never missed.  Hit on three field goals and all his extra points.  Three Rivers Stadium is no picnic to kick in and Moody did his job.

Brock Purdy performed well under duress.  The Steelers have depth at the pass rush position.  He was flushed from the pocket numerous times.  He was forced to climb the pocket and he usually delivered.  Great players will make plays.  Purdy was resilient despite suffering three sacks, multiple quarterback hits and losing a fumble.  Winning in Pittsburg is a massive confidence boost for him.

Brandon Aiyuk needs to rep 7-Eleven because he was open all day long.  Targeted eight times he caught eight receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns.  Aiyuk has been an ascending player on the Niners roster for the last few years.  Today was his coming out party.  He is the best route runner on the team, and he is likely one of the best route runners in the NFL.  Look for him to receive a big contract soon.

The only negative takeaways from the game come from the offensive line and the secondary.  Spencer Burford committed two penalties that the offense was able to overcome.  Colton McKivitz allowed three sacks and multiple quarterback hurries and hits.  Though the secondary caused two turnovers, that does not completely mask the fact that they allowed 198 yards thru the air.  The defensive backs are young and improving.  Overall, there is enough tape to study how to improve.

This is an outstanding team win.  The Niners can build on this.  They also have 40 million under the cap to add a piece or two thru trades if they wish.  For now, its on to Los Angeles!






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