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49ers vs. Steelers: Five Keys to Victory and Score Prediction

Matt Andruscavage
Sep 21, 2019 at 12:00 PM


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The San Francisco 49ers are 2-0 and now it's time for the home opener! The 49ers will host the 0-2 Pittsburgh Steelers and have a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 1998. Coach Kyle Shanahan stated this week that it was very important to head into the Week 4 bye week with a 3-0 record. Here are the keys to achieving a win on Sunday:

Where and When: 1:25 PM PST (4:25 p.m. EST) at Levi's Stadium

Where to Watch: How to watch or listen to Steelers at 49ers

1) Keep Jimmy Garoppolo Upright


It's no secret. Everyone is concerned over the loss of Left Tackle Joe Staley, who sustained a broken fibula against the Bengals that will sideline him for six to eight weeks.

San Francisco will start rookie Justin Skule and you can bet Shanahan will try to out-scheme Pittsburgh's defense in an attempt to fortify Garoppolo's blind side.

The left side isn't the only area of concern. Pittsburgh has a very good defense and it will be up to the entire offensive line to do its job. The 49ers have only allowed six pressures and Garoppolo has only been sacked once (against Tampa). If it can protect Garoppolo, this offense should continue to roll.

2) Continue to be Successful on Early Downs


Last week against Cincinnati, the 49ers found themselves facing a third down 9 times and converted on first downs on 5 of them. The real eye-popping stat was that they accumulated 500 of their 572 yards on first and second downs! (by the way, on those plays they averaged 8.5 yards per play!)

If the 49ers can continue this kind of success on first and second downs, the running game will have a great chance to open up. San Francisco was able to rush for 259 yards and a 6.2 yard per carry average, which was a thing of beauty to behold. The Steelers have given up 250 yards total in two games and could continue in this trend if the 49ers can sustain drives and keep the Steelers' defense on the field.

It should also be noted that the 49ers are the only team in the NFL to not start a drive with a three and out. That won't last the season, but it does mean that the 49ers have a good chance to stay on the field a long time on Sunday.

3) Pressure and Hit Mason Rudolph


Rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph will get his first start against the 49ers and it will be up to the front seven and Robert Saleh's scheme to make sure he is greeted with a lot of pressure.

The Niners have been pressuring the quarterback very well thus far and even though Dee Ford may be on a pitch count due to his quad/knee, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Ronald Blair, and Arik Armstead have all been doing a great job getting after the passer.

Saleh has not had to blitz much as the 49ers are getting home with only a four-man pass rush, but this may be the week to send extra pressure and make Rudolph as uncomfortable as possible. If the Niners are able to get pressure early, we could be looking at sacks, but most importantly, a turnover or two.

4) Avoid Penalties!


The penalties seemed down last week as the Bengals only received one first down due to penalties, but the 49ers still had nine for 75 yards.

They cannot afford penalties that nullify big plays or put them in second and long or third and long.

5) Do Not Let Juju Smith-Schuster Beat You


Smith-Schuster is clearly best offensive weapon on the Steelers and they move him around a lot. He plays well both outside and in the slot. In the slot is where the 49ers should be most concerned as he has caught 11 passes for 162 yards there. It will be important for either K'Waun Williams or possibly Jason Verrett to not allow big plays from the slot. Williams has struggled there, so it will be interesting to see how the 49ers defend the slot and possibly give Williams some help.

Prediction


The 49ers pass rush should make things uncomfortable for Mason Rudolph and the offense should be able to do its thing against the Steelers, who are reeling.

Expect the crowd to be loud and the defense to be stout against James Conner and Rudolph, keeping the Steelers' offense on the bench.

The 49ers have a big chance here and it's a good bet the coaching staff will be ready to ensure a victory heading into the bye.

49ers 27, Steelers 13
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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