Two largely untested quarterbacks will battle it out in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Both Kenny Pickett and Brock Purdy look to be solid quarterbacks, but to be a true Super Bowl contender both quarterbacks will need to show marked improvement from last year.
PFF recognized the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run defense as one of their strengths last season; PFF placed them 10th out of all teams despite T.J. Watt’s absence. Their defensive line performed admirably last year and should improve further this year.
T.J. Watt will likely be the centerpiece of any defensive enhancement for the Steelers this season, providing heavy defensive impact while creating game-altering plays. They have also drafted Keaanu Benton and Nick Herbig, who both appear to possess bright futures but, at minimum, serve as reliable depth pieces against the 49ers.
Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts and Kwon Alexander were acquired during free agency as run defenders who will make an immediate, impactful difference against running plays. These linebackers should make an essential difference in stopping the run game in 2023, especially in games like this.
Shanahan’s offense relies heavily on their wide zone running game, and that will likely become even more evident against Pittsburgh, with Brock Purdy and Kittle both being healthy. In five losses last season, they averaged 99.2 rushing yards; when winning, they averaged almost 150. When running is not possible for San Francisco, it usually leads to defeat.
This is a tight matchup. The Steelers have made big-time additions up front defensively, and if those additions play well, the Steelers can slow down the Niner’s run game. If the Niners can not establish a strong run game, they will have big issues in this game. I think the Steelers slow the run game and win this game at the very end. This should be one of the best games of the week.
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