The San Francisco 49ers didn't exactly get off to a hot start in Week 3 with the winless Pittsburgh Steelers in town at Levi's Stadium. If anything the first two quarters were awfully ugly.

A primary reason was the number of early offensive mistakes. During the Niners' first drive, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempted to hit running back Matt Breida with a short pass, only to see it bobble out of Breida's hands and into the waiting arms of Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt for an interception.

Garoppolo's pass could have been a bit more on target, yet that's a reception Breida would likely tell you he should have hauled in.

San Francisco was able to hold Pittsburgh to a 46-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell, despite the short field position, which gave the Steelers an early 3-0 lead. But on the 49ers' following possession, running back Raheem Mostert fumbled a would-be handoff, costing the Niners 18 yards and eventually leading to a punt.

No turnover on that drive, at least. And Garoppolo would eventually be credited with the fumbled handoff.

But Garoppolo turned the ball over again the following possession. His pass, intended for wide receiver Dante Pettis, was off mark after the quarterback took some heat. The pass ended up in the hands of newly acquired Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who took advantage of Pettis not fighting for the pass well enough on the play.

Take a look:


The 49ers defense, again playing on a short field, managed to hold and force another Pittsburgh field goal to increase the Steelers lead 6-0. And while the Niners looked like they found some offensive continuity at the end of the first quarter, Mostert fumbled again, which led to another Pittsburgh offensive possession:


And again, the Niners defense forced a Steelers punt after a turnover. And again, a 49ers drive looked like it would culminate in points.

And again, San Francisco turned it over. This time, Garoppolo fumbled a snap within the red zone, leading to a recovery by Steelers linebacker Devin Bush.

Four Pittsburgh defensive takeaways in fewer than two quarters, illustrating just how problematic the 49ers offense had been with protecting the ball early on. One of the defensive tactics the Steelers used with success was to blitz off the edge, forcing early throws from Garoppolo and subjecting him to far more hits than he had in the first two weeks of 2019 combined.

The Niners finally managed to end a drive in points, getting a 24-yard field goal from kicker Robbie Gould with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half. Those three points were fewer than the number of turnovers San Francisco had during that timeframe.

On a positive note, the 49ers defense held Pittsburgh to a mere 76 all-purpose yards, also limiting second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph to 40 yards passing and a rating of 59.0 for the first half. Meanwhile, Garoppolo was 14-of-19 for 165 yards, zero touchdowns against the two interceptions for a 60.1 passer rating.

Those turnovers certainly hurt.

San Francisco will kick off to start the second half.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.