Steelers vs 49ers: Breakdown, matchups and prediction


The Pittsburgh Steelers face the San Francisco 49ers  in Week 2 of the 2015 NFL season.  This is the home kickoff game for Pittsburgh and you can bet their fans are ready to fill the stadium with their terrible towels and hopeful anticipation.


The Steelers secondary was in shambles last week, largely due to both poor communication and a lack of experience playing together. The Patriots took full advantage of a backfield that obviously has not formed into a unit that can trust each other to be in position.

As several pundits have pointed out, the Steelers defense can only get better from this point on. Yes they were that bad.

Several factors should work to the Steelers advantage this week. The secondary has had a week to work on communication and cohesiveness. I have said since the beginning of pre-season that the occasional cover 2 works well towards the strengths of our cornerbacks.

Last week we kept that scheme under wraps because it didn’t match up well against Tom Brady. This week we can expect Coach Butler to utilize it against Colin Kaepernick, who is more athletic than he is cerebral.

San Francisco surprised a lot of people last week against Minnesota. There were low expectations for a defense that lost several key players. The 2015 49ers defense came out and recorded 5 sacks against the Vikings and kept Teddy Bridgewater from ever getting into any kind of rhythm. Look for Mangini to attack the center of our offensive line, looking for any weakness he can exploit.

On offense we can bet on Pittsburgh using the same sort of game plan that used last week. DeAngelo Williams will once again get most of the snaps in the run game. Though he may not rack up the numbers that he did against the Patriots, I think he will be successful later in the game as Roethlisberger begins to open the field and keeps the 49ers secondary honest.

On that note, I look for Ben and his receivers to have a monster day against a San Francisco’s defensive backfield that is largely untested and relatively thin.

The 49ers had a lot of success against the Vikings on the ground and will test our front seven with a running game featuring Carlos Hyde. It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh reacts to a team that will dare them to try to win the game in the trenches.

Kaepernick is not a very accurate quarterback, so look for him to utilize the boot option regularly. He will be looking for the mismatch in the flat and across the middle.

Key Matchups:

Ben Roethlisberger vs 9 Secondary

The 49ers will bring the blitz against Big Ben, but if they think they are going to have the same success against Roethisberger that they had against Teddy Bridgwater, well then they are sadly mistaken. Ben may be the best quarterback in the league under pressure.

Look for Ben to systematically pick the 49ers cornerbacks apart. Bryant and Brown win most contested throws and Ben is a master at threading the needle.

Steelers Front 7 vs 49ers Running Backs

The Steelers only allowed 80 rushing yards against the Patriots and an average of only 3.3 yard per carry. San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde racked up 168 yards alone last week, for an average of 6.5 yards-per-carry.

If Pittsburgh’s front line can limit the 49ers run game, it will force San Francisco into relying on the unsteady arm of Kaepernick. Ryan Shazier should have another monster game and I look for our outside linebackers to occasionally get to the quarterback when he leaves the pocket.

Colin Kaepernick vs Steelers secondary

As I have stated before, Kaepernick relies more on his athleticism then he does his ability to read defenses. This should play to the Steelers advantage if they can form any type of pass rush at all. Colin is not a pure pocket passer and when he has to pass they would rather he does it out of the simple bootleg option.

The slot corner is going to be key this week. We also need to limit the amount of times that we matchup a linebacker with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. All eyes will be on the cornerbacks and safeties, and they need to up their game significantly.

The Steelers assurance that Brandon Boykin will see more playing time should bolster the group. Much has been made about the cover 2 and in a game featuring two starting wide receivers whose best days are behind them, this is the week to see if it works.


This game all comes down to whether the quarterbacks of each team can exploit the weaknesses of the opposing teams secondary.   Any thinking person would rather rely on Roethlisberger’s savvy gamesmanship and accurate passes then on the happy feet and inaccurate arm of Kaepernick

Both teams have the ability to produce strong ground games, though the Steelers have a substantially more well-rounded offense. NaVorro Bowman, Glenn Dorsey, and Ian Williams have rejuvenated the 49ers run defense and could potentially shut down DeAngelo Williams.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, that means Ben will simply dial-up the numbers of playmakers Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Heath Miller.

If that happens, the 49ers will have to play catch up and pray that their quarterback can capitalize on the much criticized Steelers defensive backfield. Look for Kaepernick to pick up some yards with his feet, but it shouldn’t be enough to overcome a loaded Steelers offense.

Score: Steelers over 49ers: 28-17

Although the 49ers looked good against a young Vikings quarterback, you can be sure that Ben won’t make the same mistakes.  The Steelers will be paying in front of a sold out home team crowd and have a lot to prove to them and to themselves.

Next: Why are Steelers fans hated?

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