Every week through the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 season, I'll run a simulation on EA Sports Madden NFL 24 for the Steelers opponent for that week.
The structure of the sim is rather straightforward. I'll allow the CPU to play the game against itself to allow for a more authentic simulation. Six-minute quarters, with the weather as close to the forecast as possible. I won't pick up the controller to aid the Steelers in any way.
The simulation will run with Madden's most up-to-date rosters. I will only take out an injured player not yet recognized by Madden if they are confirmed to be out for the game.
To kick off the 2023 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers host the San Francisco 49ers. Here's how Madden NFL 24 sees the contest shaking out.
An Explosive First Half for Pittsburgh
The Steelers got the ball first in slightly rainy conditions and opened the game as you may expect, by turning and handing the ball off to Najee Harris, who went untouched for a 22-yard gain. Kenny Pickett on the very next play got the passing game going with a 25-yard strike to Diontae Johnson over the middle. Pickett quickly capped the first drive with a 22-yard rainbow pass to Pat Freiermuth on a wheel route for the game's first touchdown.
The 49ers appeared to respond well as Christian McCaffrey took his first carry for 24 yards. The 49ers cap a solid drive with a 56-yard field goal attempt that fails to split the uprights.
Drive number two looks rough for the Steelers as Pittsburgh stared down a 3rd and 10. As Pickett scrambled to his right with three 49ers bearing down on him, he found George Pickens behind the defense wide-open for a 54-yard touchdown.
The 49ers are able to get things going through the air with back-to-back receptions from George Kittle. (Kittle and Nick Bosa had not been officially ruled out of the game when I ran the simulation.) After a few McCaffrey runs, Brock Purdy found Jauan Jennings for a two-yard touchdown between Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts.
Early now in the second quarter, the Steelers ripped a few solid runs with Harris and Pickett before pulling up for another deep shot to George Pickens who found his way into the endzone for his second touchdown reception of the game on as many opportunities.
The Steelers forced a three-and-out to get one last crack at the endzone with a minute remaining in the first half. A 32-yard dot to Diontae Johnson gets the Steelers into scoring territory. After picking up an extra first down, Pittsburgh's offense stalled with three straight incomplete passes. Chris Boswell lined up a 54-yard field goal but pushed it to the right.
This gave San Francisco an opportunity to tighten Pittsburgh's lead, and they took advantage. Brock Purdy, under pressure from Cam Heyward, launched a pass down the right hash marks to McCaffrey with TJ Watt in coverage, setting up what would eventually be a 21-yard field goal for Ryan Moody. The Steelers took a 21-10 lead into the half.
Steelers Strong Second Half Closes the Game Out
The 49ers got the ball to start the half but didn't keep it for long. On third and long, Purdy scrambled from pressure and lost the football as he was tackled in the open field. An offensive lineman scooped up the ball and trudged forward in an effort to pick up the first down, but fumbled the ball himself. This time the Steelers recover, giving Pickett and company the ball at the 26-yard line.
Four plays later, Kenny Pickett scrambled forward and dove over a defender for a two-yard rushing touchdown, his fourth and final score of the game.
Defensively, the Steelers were in Purdy's face for most of the game, forcing him to scramble away and throw the ball away or make late passes in coverage. The Steelers' pass rush didn't record a sack in the game, but they were certainly effective. This was the case for three straight plays on the 49ers' next drive, leading to another three-and-out.
The Steelers then proceeded to grind down the field, eating the clock and picking up crucial third downs. Eventually, Harris had his number called and bulled up the middle for his first touchdown of the season.
The 49ers didn't quit, however. San Francisco's final drive was a 13-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown pass from Purdy to Brandon Aiyuk.
The ensuing onside kick landed in Allen Robinson II's hands. The Steelers put the clock in Harris's hands, where he drove the ball down to the one-yard line as time expired.
Pittsburgh wins, 35-17.
Wrapping Up The Steelers Simulated Victory
Of course, my game crashed when I tried to tally up the final stats, so they're lost forever. However, Purdy only completed 51% of his passes for 175 yards. Pickett, on the other hand, completed 71% of his passes for 275 yards with three touchdowns through the air and another on the ground, easily the player of the game.
Harris rushed 15 times for 87 yards and made enough plays in the passing game to have over 100 yards from scrimmage. Johnson and Pickens each had three receptions for 76 and 88 yards respectively. Freiermuth had five catches, though his yardage was unavailable after the game crashed.
The Steelers did have some trouble containing Kittle and McCaffery, but the pressure on Purdy swamped the 49ers efforts at balancing their offensive gameplan. Deebo Samuel, as a result, was largely ineffective throughout the game.
No doubt, Steelers fans would love to see this type of dominance to begin a promising 2023 campaign. The Steelers have played strong teams to open the season a few years in a row now, so it wouldn't be too unlikely to see the Black and Gold hit the field strongly as they did in this simulation.
As fun as it is to see what Madden may see happening, it is only a simulation. The Steelers' real test is Sunday afternoon.