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

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Steelers’ defensive depth will be a key factor

General Manager Omar Khan improved the defense in the off-season, collecting a dozen newcomers who are going to play key roles.

The defensive line - led by Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi, was strengthened with the addition of rookie DT Keeanu Benton and veteran DT Armon Watts. Benton is listed as the second-string nose tackle on the Steelers’ depth chart, but he’ll play a lot on Sunday.

One of the Steelers’ weak links last season was at reserve outside linebacker. When T.J. Watt went down, the defense really struggled. So, Khan drafted another Wisconsin alum — Nick Herbig — and brought in free agent veteran Markus Golden for depth purposes.

The inside linebacker room underwent a major overhaul, with 100-plus tacklers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts joining the team from Washington and Miami, respectively. Former Jets and 49ers’ linebacker Kwon Alexander was also signed in August and fits right in with what the Steelers hope to do. Play fast and physical.

The addition of future Hall of Fame selection Patrick Peterson will likely give the coaching staff some flexibility in the secondary. If rookie Joey Porter, Jr. can hold his own at outside cornerback, Peterson will be able to float around the defensive backfield as needed. This is exciting when you think about guys like Charles and Rod Woodson, veteran corners who were each able to extend their careers in similar situations.

Speaking of floating around the secondary, expect Fitzpatrick to occupy a number of spots this season. He could be the difference in this game against the 49ers, as he will likely shadow the ultra-athletic McCaffrey coming out of the backfield.

Damontae Kazee is a ballhawk at the other safety position, while veteran newcomer Keanu Neal should be able to help out at both defensive back and nickel linebacker if needed.

The nickel corner, once thought to be a weak spot, may actually be a strength for the Steelers heading into the opener. Veteran newcomer Chandon Sullivan is listed as the starter, but expect contributions there from fellow newcomers Desmond King, Elijah Riley, and Peterson.