Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Gridiron Report: Steelers Embarrassed is Week One Matchup with 49ers

Pittsburgh certainly started the 2023 NFL season on the wrong foot on Sunday with a 30-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. 


The game was never truly close. 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy started the game with a touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk. This would become a far too familiar sight for Steelers fans as Purdy passed to Aiyuk later in the game for another score. 


From the first score of the game, San Francisco dominated all facets of the game. The Steelers offense failed to pick up a first down until halfway through the second quarter. The defense struggled to stop anything the 49ers offense threw their way. It was an absolute mess.


Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett had high expectations coming into the new season after having an impressive preseason. Pickett completed passes left and right during the three preseason games that unfortunately didn’t count.


Pickett certainly failed to meet these expectations in the opener. The second-year quarterback completed 31 of 46 passes for just 232 yards and a touchdown. Steelers’ offensive coordinator Matt Canada seemed to have made zero adjustments from last year’s disappointing performances. 


Pickett threw checkdown after checkdown while also failing to make simple passes over the middle. Pickett showed slight signs of life which included his touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth. Though Pickett struggled in week one, he’s not the only one worth blaming for the loss.


On paper, the Steelers have one of the most talented defenses in the NFL. There are All-Pros and Pro-Bowlers from top to bottom on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, football isn’t played on paper. It’s played on a grass field, a grass field on which 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey ran all over.


McCaffrey began his first full season in San Francisco with an outstanding performance. The Stanford alumni ran for 152 yards and a touchdown. 


From a fan’s perspective, the Steelers’ defense never put up a fight. The 49ers moved up the field with ease. Every receiver seemed to be open. Every player seemed to be blocked.


The only beam of hope from the defense was unsurprisingly T.J. Watt. Watt has been the marquee name on the defense for years and that’s for good reason. Watt picked up three sacks while forcing two fumbles. The argument could be made that Watt was more productive than the rest of the defense as a whole. Personally, I feel that argument would be won with ease.


The Steelers drafted running back Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 draft. Through his first few years in the NFL, Harris has certainly had his ups and downs. Today can be chalked up as a down, though Harris isn’t to blame.


Pittsburgh failed to establish a run, not because they couldn’t pick up yards, but because they never ran the football. Harris finished with just six carries for 31 yards. I’m not sure if the lack of a run game was part of the team’s offensive game plan or not, but for the Steelers’ sake I hope it wasn’t. 


The Steelers made one thing abundantly clear during Sunday’s loss. If they want to win football games, the offense will have to run the ball successfully. They absolutely cannot rely on Kenny Pickett and the passing offense like they did Sunday. 


On the positive side of things, the NFL has had a very confusing and surprising first week. The Cincinnati Bengals, who were favored to win the AFC North, lost 24-3 to the Cleveland Browns, who were often predicted to finish last in the same division.


In week two, the Steelers will host the Browns for a primetime Monday night game. We can only hope week one’s embarrassing performance was only a fluke and not a sign of things to come.

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