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49ers dominate Steelers: 15 observations

Marc Adams
Sep 11, 2023 at 7:08 AM--

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Now that's how you start off a football season. After a few years of starting slow, the San Francisco 49ers wanted to get off on the right foot in 2023. They did that.

Even though the 49ers were playing an early game, on the road, in the Eastern time zone, against a team that doesn't usually lose in week one, the 49ers got off to a quick start and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-7. To show how dominant the 49ers were (especially on defense), there was a point in the first half where the 49ers had more scoring drives (four) than the Steelers had first downs (zero). And, of course, there was the first-half statistic flashed on the screen that showed the 49ers outgaining the Steelers in yardage 199-1.

It was the worst home loss in Mike Tomlin's career with the Steelers. I picked the 49ers to win but did not expect them to win by 23.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

  • Brock Purdy didn't look like he missed the offseason recovering from a torn UCL. He was sharp.

  • Purdy is so calm and poised. He may lack the arm strength of other QBs, but he has all the other tools you want your QB to possess.
  • Spencer Burford had two first-quarter penalties for 15 yards. That's not ideal.
  • The offensive line, as a whole, performed well, though. The Steelers have an elite defensive front, but the 49ers protected Purdy well, for the most part.
  • Brandon Aiyuk may want Nick Bosa-type money soon. He finished the game with 8 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He was the best player on the field for most of the game and caught every single pass thrown his way. Aiyuk is the next one up to be paid. And he deserves it.
  • Drake Jackson must want Bosa-type money, too. He had two sacks in the first half and added a third in the second half. It was great to see the second-year player bounce back and show some promise.

  • Clelin Ferrell looks like he's been given new life. He looked good yesterday.
  • "Death, taxes, and Jake Moody." The rookie kicker was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts in his first NFL game, and made all his PATs. Looks like Jim Harbaugh was right.

  • I wasn't high on Ambry Thomas going into this game. That hasn't changed. I just don't think he's that good.

  • Christian McCaffrey is good, though. In fact, he's very good. He had 151 rushing yards in the game, and over 100 of those yards came after contact.
  • I'd like to see McCaffrey a little less, especially when the team has a big lead. He played later in the game than I would prefer. But maybe it's because he didn't play in the preseason. Still, Elijah Mitchell is healthy. Let him close out the game instead.

  • On that 65-yard TD run by McCaffrey, Aiyuk and Ray-Ray McCloud had great blocks down the field. You don't have big runs without excellent blocking from your wide receivers. Remember Terrell Owens running downfield blocking on Garrison Hearst's 96-yard game-winning touchdown run in overtime in 1998 against the New York Jets?

  • Colton McKivitz having to block T.J. Watt was hard to watch at times. But I'm not going to judge McKivitz yet. Watt may be the best pass rusher in the league. Let's see how McKivitz performs when he's not facing an elite pass rusher.

  • Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner were everywhere. But what else is new? Those guys are so good.
  • Javon Hargrave had his first sack with the 49ers. I'd love to see about 19 more of those. Bosa spoke highly of his new teammate after the game. "Yeah, I mean, we would watch [Hargrave] with Philly, and I think between him and Chris Jones and obviously Aaron Donald, it's pretty close on who affects games as much from the inside," Bosa said. "And to add him with Arik [Armstead], it's going to help us on the edge a lot."
  • Hargrave and Arik Armstead were dominant early on, collapsing the pocket over and over.
  • Other than the defensive lapse to end the first half, Steve Wilks' debut was dominant.

Up next for the 49ers is a trip to Inglewood to play the Los Angeles Rams. With no Cooper Kupp, the Rams may find it difficult to score many points against the San Francisco defense. But they did beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, so you never know.
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