5 reasons the Pittsburgh Steelers will win in Week 1 vs. the San Francisco 49ers

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Sunday’s season-opener between Pittsburgh and San Francisco could very well be a — dare I say it — Super Bowl preview. Laugh if you want, but both the Steelers and 49ers are loaded on paper, and ready to pose a significant challenge to their conference opponents in 2023.

San Francisco may have been the best team in the league heading into the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia last season, having won 12 consecutive games since trading for Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey. However, starting QB Brock Purdy tore a ligament (UCL) in his throwing arm early in that game and the 49ers were blown out on the road, 31-7.

Ironically, Pittsburgh is a team that reminds me of last season’s Eagles. Philadelphia went 9-8 two seasons ago, with young quarterback Jalen Hurts giving the squad future hope by going 8-7 as the starter before breaking out in a big way in his second year as the full-time starter. 

Similarly, the Steelers went 9-8 last season with young quarterback Kenny Pickett giving the squad future hope by going 7-5 as the starter. After a slow start, Pickett made the Steelers arguably the second-hottest team in the NFL down the stretch (behind the 49ers), leading Pittsburgh to wins in seven of the last nine games.

Both the Steelers and Eagles surrounded their young quarterback with weapons on offense, allowed them to work through some growing pains, and made key additions on the defensive side of the ball in an effort to elevate the team. 

It worked for the Eagles, who improved to 16-3 overall last year before suffering a hard-fought, 38-35 Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Hurts’ second full season as the team’s starter. 

And while this is Pickett’s first season as the full-time starter, it could certainly work for the Steelers if they play up to their capabilities and get some luck along the way in 2023.

After all, last season was the fourth straight Super Bowl that featured at least one team that had nine wins or less the season before. 

Besides Philadelphia, there was Cincinnati with second-year quarterback Joe Burrow (4-11-1 in 2020, 10-7 in 2021), Tampa Bay with legendary quarterback Tom Brady (7-9-0 in 2019 without Brady, 11-5-0 in 2020 with Brady), and San Francisco with Garoppolo at the helm (4-12 in 2018, 13-3 in 2019).

So, there is a path for both of these teams to represent in this year’s Super Bowl. And the road starts at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). 

It should be a fantastic game, and likely a close one until the fourth quarter. But I believe the Steelers defense will use a late turnover to kick a field goal and secure a 27-17 victory.

Here are five reasons why I like the Steelers to win: