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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

49ers start season in style with a 30-7 blowout win over Steelers

Sep 10, 2023 at 1:21 PM

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
SF 10 10 7 3 30
PIT 0 7 0 0 7

After stumbling out of the gates to a 3-4 start in 2022, the San Francisco 49ers made sure the 2023 season began in different fashion on Sunday, dominating the Steelers in a 30-7 win at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.

The stars were out on offense for the 49ers, who were led by 220 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-29 passing from Brock Purdy and 22 carries for 152 yards and one touchdown from running back Christian McCaffrey. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk chipped in with a huge performance, catching eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett completed 31-of-46 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a losing effort for the Steelers. The 49ers outgained the Steelers 391 to 239 on the day, with a 188 to 41 edge in yardage on the ground.

First Half

The 49ers couldn't have asked for a better start to the game and their season on both sides of the ball. The Steelers fielded the opening kickoff for a touchback and began their opening possession with a six-yard completion from Pickett to wide receiver George Pickens, but they moved backwards from there and were forced to punt after defensive end Drake Jackson sacked Pickett for a 10-yard loss on third down.

The 49ers began their first possession at their own 46-yard line and put together an efficient seven-play, 54-yard drive that ended in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Purdy to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. After Purdy and Kittle connected for an 11-yard gain on a 4th-and-1, running back Christian McCaffrey set the 49ers up with a 1st-and-Goal after runs of nine and 17 yards, then Purdy found Aiyuk in the end zone to give the 49ers an early first quarter lead.

Things continued to go the 49ers' way on the next possession when Pickett was intercepted on third down by cornerback Charvarius Ward, who returned the ball to the Steelers' 48-yard line. The 49ers moved to the 26-yard line before being driven back by a 10-yard holding penalty on guard Spencer Burford, which eventually led to the 49ers settling for a 41-yard field goal from Jake Moody to open up a 10-0 lead.

A three-and-out followed the field goal, then the 49ers kept things rolling on offense with a 9-play, 68-yard drive that ended in the second touchdown pass of the game from Purdy to Aiyuk. The 49ers faced a 2nd-and-12 from the Steelers' 19-yard line when Purdy threw towards the end zone for Aiyuk, who fought through coverage from Patrick Peterson to haul in a dazzling touchdown grab.

The 49ers continued to stifle the Steelers on defense, forcing another three-and-out on the next possession with the help of Drake Jackson's second sack of the first half. The 49ers responded with a seven-play, 37-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Moody to take a 20-0 lead, then they took possession again after holding the Steelers to their fourth punt in five possessions.

The 49ers took over at their own 24-yard line after the punt and hung onto the ball for 11 plays before punting back to the Steelers with 1:35 remaining in the half. The Steelers began at their own 5-yard line after the punt and got their offense moving for the first time in the half, putting together a 12-play, 95-yard that culminated in a three-yard scoring strike from Pickett to tight end Pat Freiermuth. The drive was boosted by a 24-yard run by running back Najee Harris that had a 15-yard penalty tacked on when cornerback Deommodore Lenoir was flagged for unnecessary roughness, then Pickett and Freiermuth put the Steelers on the board with 10 seconds remaining in the half.

The touchdown was sorely needed for the Steelers, who were dominated throughout the remainder of the first half. The 49ers held a 14-to-6 advantage in first downs at the half, a 222-to-77 edge in total yardage, and carried a time of possession advantage into the break of 21:06 to 8:54. Purdy finished the half with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-21 passing, while Pickett completed 12-of-20 passes for 61 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Second Half

Any momentum the Steelers established with their late first-half scoring drive came to a sudden end early in the third quarter, thanks to an explosive highlight run from McCaffrey. After a 10-yard completion from Purdy to Deebo Samuel opened the half for the 49ers, McCaffrey weaved through traffic near the line of scrimmage then streaked down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 27-7 lead.

The teams exchanged punts after the touchdown, then the 49ers held the Steelers to another three-and-out and took possession at the Steelers' 38-yard line after an 18-yard punt return from Ray-Ray McCloud. But the first play of that possession turned into one of the low points of the game for the 49ers, as Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt beat right tackle Colton McKivitz for his third sack of the day, this one resulting in a fumble that gave the Steelers the ball in 49ers territory after a 15-yard face mask penalty on Burford was added to the play.

The Steelers weren't able to capitalize on the turnover as they wound up giving the ball back to the 49ers on downs at the 8-yard line, then the 49ers drove out of their own territory before punting the ball back to the Steelers from around midfield. The Steelers took over at their own 4-yard line and drove 48 yards before linebacker Fred Warner tipped a Pickett pass into the hands of safety Talanoa Hufanga for an interception. The 49ers took over at their own 49-yard line after Hufanga was flagged for an illegal forward pass on an attempted lateral to safety Tashaun Gipson, then Purdy and the offense were able to drain the game clock to the 5:30 mark before Moody connected on his third field goal of the day, this one from 40 yards to give the 49ers a 30-7 lead.

The Steelers moved 43 yards on 12 plays on their final possession before a fourth down sack from defensive tackle Javon Hargrave forced a turnover on downs. The 49ers downed the ball from there to run out the clock and seal the win.

Game Notes

Purdy made history in the win, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to win his first six regular season starts while throwing two or more touchdowns in each win... The 49ers now have a 13-10 all-time record against the Steelers, with their previous meeting ending in a 24-20 win at Levi's Stadium in 2019... The 49ers were favored by 2.5 points in Sunday's meeting... Defensive end Nick Bosa had a fairly quiet day (two tackles, one QB hit) for the 49ers after ending his holdout with a $170 million contract extension last week, but second-year defensive end Drake Jackson was able to step up with three sacks... The 49ers will be back on the road next as they head to Southern California to face the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood (4:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. PT, FOX). The Steelers will try to rebound against the Cleveland Browns (1-0), whom they host on Monday Night Football (8:15 pm. ET, ABC) next week.

SF Team Stats PIT
203 Passing Yards 198
188 Rushing Yards 41
391 Total Yards 239
7.59 Avg Yards per Pass 5.04
5.53 Avg Yards per Run 4.1
1 Fumbles Lost 0
0 Int Thrown 2
3 Sacks Allowed 5
00:37:23 Time of Pos 00:22:37
11 Penalties 6

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Brock Purdy 19/29 220 2 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Christian McCaffrey 22 152 6.9 1
Brock Purdy 3 20 6.7 0
Elijah Mitchell 5 10 2 0
Deebo Samuel 2 8 4 0
Sam Darnold 2 -2 -1 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Brandon Aiyuk 8 8 129 2
Deebo Samuel 5 7 55 0
George Kittle 3 6 19 0
Christian McCaffrey 3 5 17 0
Jauan Jennings 0 1 0 0
Elijah Mitchell 0 1 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Brock Purdy 2 1
Christian McCaffrey 1 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Jake Moody 3 3 41 3
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 3 44 3 56
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Ray-Ray McCloud 3 13.7 0 19
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Fred Warner 8-3 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 6-3 0 0 0
Ambry Thomas 5-1 0 0 0
Talanoa Hufanga 5-0 0 1 0
Isaiah Oliver 4-3 0 0 0
Charvarius Ward 3-1 0 1 0
Javon Hargrave 3-1 1 0 0
Drake Jackson 3-0 3 0 0
Tashaun Gipson 2-1 0 0 0
Clelin Ferrell 2-1 0 0 0
Nick Bosa 2-1 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 10-2 0 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 1-0 0 0 0
Kerry Hyder 1-0 1 0 0

Steelers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Kenny Pickett 31/46 232 1 2
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Najee Harris 6 31 5.2 0
Jaylen Warren 3 6 2 0
Kenny Pickett 1 4 4 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Allen Robinson 5 8 64 0
Diontae Johnson 3 6 48 0
Calvin Austin 6 6 37 0
George Pickens 5 7 36 0
Connor Heyward 2 4 19 0
Jaylen Warren 5 6 12 0
Anthony McFarland 2 2 11 0
Pat Freiermuth 1 4 3 1
Najee Harris 2 2 2 0
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Pressley Harvin 6 35.5 1 57
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Calvin Austin 1 2 0 2
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Kwon Alexander 9-1 0 0 0
Alex Highsmith 7-3 0 0 0
Elandon Roberts 7-1 0 0 0
Keanu Neal 5-3 0 0 0
Cole Holcomb 5-3 0 0 1
T.J. Watt 5-0 3 0 2
Damontae Kazee 4-1 0 0 0
Minkah Fitzpatrick 4-1 0 0 0
Keeanu Benton 3-2 0 0 0
DeMarvin Leal 3-1 0 0 0
Levi Wallace 3-1 0 0 0
Markus Golden 3-0 0 0 0
Patrick Peterson 2-2 0 0 0
Montravius Adams 2-2 0 0 0
Larry Ogunjobi 2-0 0 0 0
Isaiahh Loudermilk 1-1 0 0 0
Nick Herbig 1-1 0 0 0
Joey Porter 1-0 0 0 0

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