Written by Ryan Lippert
After starting the season in disappointing fashion with an 0-2 start, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to take a step in the right direction this week. They go on the road to face the San Francisco 49ers who are coming off an impressive 41-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The 49ers have gotten off to a solid 2-0 start and look to keep their momentum going. However, as good as their season has been so far, this Steelers team is the most talented team they’ve played so far, regardless of record. With that being said, let’s take a deeper look at this matchup.
Tevin Coleman, RB: Out (Ankle)
Trent Taylor, WR: IR (Foot)
Jalen Hurd, WR: Out (Back)
Joe Staley, OT: Out (Lower Leg)
Jaquiski Tartt, SS: Questionable (Toe)
Nick Bosa, DE: Questionable (Ankle)
Dee Ford, DE: Questionable (Quadriceps)
Jimmie Ward, DB: Questionable (Hand)
Overview: With Coleman out once again, the 49ers will stick with their “by-committee” approach at running back. Matt Breida led the way last week but he will split carries with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. The injuries to Taylor and Hurd will hurt as far as depth goes but they still have Deebo Samuel, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, and Kendrick Bourne to rely on in the passing game. The loss of Joe Staley will likely hurt the most as they will now have to rely on rookie Justin Skule to start in his place. All of the injured players listed on defense did practice on Thursday so hopefully for the 49ers, they will be able to play.
Vince Williams, ILB: Out (Hamstring)
Anthony Chickillo, OLB: Out (Foot)
Roosevelt Nix, FB: Out (Knee)
Sean Davis, FS: IR (Shoulder-Labrum)
Ben Roethlisberger, QB: IR (Elbow)
Overview: Obviously, the loss of Roethlisberger for the season will hurt the most for the Steelers. However, I believe in Mason Rudolph as he looked very good in the preseason and almost brought the Steelers back for the win last week. Now we will get to see what he can do with in a full game. Nix will be out once again which will hurt the Steelers power running game as they will miss his lead blocking. On defense, the loss of Vince Williams means that Mark Barron and Devin Bush Jr. will be the starters with Tyler Matakevich and Ulysses Gilbert III likely seeing some time in the rotation. The Chickillo injury means that Ola Adeniyi will get his chance to prove himself as the third OLB. While you hate to see Davis go to the IR, the Steelers look to have improved at the position with the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick in the trade with the Dolphins. I’m anxious to see how he looks in his first game as a part of this defense.
Bud Dupree (OLB) vs Justin Skule (OT)
Juju Smith-Schuster (WR) vs Richard Sherman (CB)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS) vs Jimmy Garoppolo (QB)
James Conner (RB) vs 49ers LBs
Steelers OL vs 49ers Pass Rush
Overview: While all of these matchups are important, the two biggest matchups for me involve the pass rush. Bud Dupree, who has been struggling for the Steelers has the perfect opportunity to prove himself this week as he will be going up against an inexperienced offensive tackle in Skule. On the opposite side, the 49ers have a very dangerous pass rush with Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner,and Nick Bosa leading the way. The Steelers offensive line must protect Rudolph and give him time to gain some early confidence. It will also help him in JuJu can find ways to get open against Sherman, who isn’t what he used to be but is still a very solid cornerback. Conner can also make things easier if he can get going but he will be facing a pretty good LB group that consists of Kwon Alexander, Fred Warner, and Dre Greenlaw. For the 49ers offense, it will be interesting to see if Garoppolo can get going against this secondary like he did last week, and how much of an impact Fitzpatrick will make against him at free safety.
I believe this game will be a very interesting one to watch. As I mentioned, the 49ers are off to a hot start but this will be their biggest test so far. I see Jimmy G making some plays in the beginning of this game to keep them in it. However, I see the Steelers secondary, led by Fitzpatrick, stepping up late and making some key stops. On the opposite end, Rudolph will manage the game and make the plays when it is needed. I have the Steelers pulling away in the fourth and picking up their first win of the season.
Final Score Prediction: Steelers 27, 49ers 17