Why Steelers season-opener vs 49ers is a critical game

Steelers / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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Now that the NFL released its schedule, we know when the Pittsburgh Steelers will play their games. If you base their schedule on how their opponents fared last season, it’s fairly weak. But oddly, there is one game that may be pivotal in determining Pittsburgh's fate this season.   

Ordinarily, the first game of the season for the Steelers is generally not pivotal unless they miss out on making the playoff by one game. Normally the Steelers are mediocre in September, and as the season progresses, they continue to improve. Case in point look at 2022; they went 1-2 in September. Not that they even improved much in October, but after the bye week, they were on a roll, winning seven of nine games.

Why the Steelers game against the 49ers is important

Of the contests on the Steelers' 17-game schedule, they play four teams that made the playoffs. However, two of them, the Ravens and Bengals, are AFC North opponents. Normally the playoff status for either of these teams from the previous season has little meaning in the current season. The two teams they play that made the playoffs, not from the AFC North, are the Jaguars and the 49ers.

Considering the Jaguars play the Steelers at home, and the Steelers have a poor home record against the Jaguars at home, the Steelers may lose this game if only because somehow, when Jacksonville shows up in Pittsburgh, they manage to bring out the worst in the Steelers. Nevertheless, it’s hard to say that Jacksonville improved their team remarkably.

However, others might say otherwise. They still may be a playoff team, but they are unlikely to make a Superbowl run. But the game of concern is the 49ers game.  

Usually, winning or losing the first game out of the box is not a huge deal; most teams will lose at least one game somewhere in the season. Plus, a Steelers loss here is not significant either; when looking at the remainder of their schedule. What is important in this game is not whether they win or lose but how well they perform. Most likely, the 49ers make another Superbowl run in 2023. They still have a solid team.