A week after securing a win in Tampa Bay, the San Francisco 49ers went to Cincinnati and crushed the Bengals to the tune of 41-17 in a contest where the outcome was really never in doubt by halftime. What are the chances the Niners move to 3-0 in their home opener while sending the Pittsburgh Steelers to 0-3? Here we discuss the odds and analysis from a betting perspective.

When: Sunday September 22nd, 2019 at 1:25pm PT (CBS)
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Line: 49ers -6.5, o/u 43

Pittsburgh Steelers
The mighty Steelers have had an inauspicious 0-2 start to the season, getting embarrassed in New England, losing their franchise quarterback for the season and starting running back for a game where Russell Wilson scored at will against a porous defense in Pittsburgh's home opener.

After two weeks, Pittsburgh ranks 24th in Football Outsiders' total DAVE rating at -9.5 percent (represents a combination of preseason projection and performance so far), 23rd in offensive DAVE at -6.4 percent and 25th in defensive DAVE at 2.4 percent. The Steelers have an ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) score of -3.8, are 0-2 ATS and 1-1 to the over/under so far this season.

While Ben Roethlisberger is gone for the season, James Conner has indicated that he will play against the Niners on Sunday and the Steelers have traded for former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to shore up their secondary.

San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan's play-calling and schemes, taken together with Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert averaging 10.1 and 6.7 yards per carry, respectively, took pressure off of Jimmy Garoppolo who was 10-10 for 213 yards, 2 touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when using play-action, finishing 17-25 for 297 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. Who knows what will happen when Tevin Coleman returns but does anyone have any doubt that if Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert are healthy they are the two most dynamic play-makers at running back for the Niners? The loss of Joe Staley to a fibula fracture, however, is huge and could be an issue moving forward.


Despite having the lowest blitz percentage in the NFL through two weeks, the Niners' defense was able to sack Andy Dalton four times, forcing him to fumble once, and Kwon Alexander tallied an interception while the defense held the Bengals to 17 points, with 7 of those points coming in utter garbage time with 45 seconds left in the game. Yes, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati are not world beating offenses, but it's safe to say that the 49ers' pass rush is legit and has led to more freedom and improvement in the secondary.

After two weeks, San Francisco is ranked 7th in total DAVE at 12.0 percent, 13th in offensive DAVE at 2.7 percent and 2nd in defensive DAVE at -10.5 percent. The Niners have an ESPN FPI score of 4.1, are 2-0 ATS and 1-1 to the over/under this season.

Prediction
The look ahead line for this game was a pick, but following the Steelers' poor start, loss of Roethlisberger and the Niners' great start, the line went all the way to 49ers -7 but seems to be hovering at most books around -6.5. Ben Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Fame quarterback but after a season where he led the NFL with 16 interceptions in 2018, he started out 2019 with a 30th ranked total QBR of 20 and was out-performed by Mason Rudolph in Week Two, finishing the Seahawks game 8-15 for 75 yards, a sack and QBR of 25.3 compared to Rudolph's 12-19 for 112 yards, 2 touchdowns, QBR of 56.0, no sacks and an interception that was a dropped pass by Donte Moncrief.


Will there really be a six-point drop off going from Ben Roethlisberger to Mason Rudolph? Rudolph is big, strong and holds many Oklahoma State passing records, including career passing yards, single-season total touchdowns and victories as a starting quarterback, and the Steelers' offense looked better with him in Week Two. While coming in for an injured quarterback is a different situation than starting an NFL game, players like JuJu Smith-Schuster appear to have full confidence in the young quarterback.

While some have posited that the Steelers should tank for next season with immovable objects of the Patriots and Chiefs in their conference, Pittsburgh is a proud and storied franchise that always plays to win, as evidenced by it giving up a 2020 first round pick to get Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins, and you can bet the Steelers are gonna fight like rabid dogs to avoid going 0-3.

Even when Ben was quarterback for the Steelers, we picked the 49ers to beat the Steelers in this game because Ben has a history of playing poorly in the Bay Area, having lost his last four in NorCal, three in a row at Oakland and in 2011 in San Francisco, and frankly we don't see a six-point difference between old Ben playing in NorCal to young Mason Rudolph making his first NFL start. While we expect the Niners to win the game, we feel that -6.5 is too many, particularly with the loss of Joe Staley and uncertainty about how the Niners will manage their left tackle position.

The last time Garoppolo and Shanahan were home favorites of 6-points or more was in Week Two of 2018 against the Detroit Lions. The Niners won 30-27 but did not cover the 6-point spread, going over the posted total of 47.5 by almost ten points. While the total for Sunday's game has been dropping, we are estimating that the Steelers' offense could be more potent than expected with Mason Rudolph and the Niners to find ways to exploit the Steelers' defense as the Patriots and Seahawks did in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. Pick: Over 43

Season:
ATS: 0-2
SU: 0-2

Poll

  • What is your best bet for Steelers at Niners on 9/22/19?
  • 49ers -6.5
  • Steelers +6.5
  • Over 43
  • Under 43