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NFL Picks: Experts give the Steelers a legit chance vs. 49ers in Week 1

Of all the Week 1 games on the NFL schedule, there are several which should get fans’ attention for being a really good football game. Of those aforementioned games, the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Francisco 49ers game Sunday at Acrisure Stadium certainly will be at, or near, the top of most fans must-watch games.

Two second year quarterbacks in Kenny Pickett and Brock Purdy going head-to-head, two of the best pass rushers in Nick Bosa and T.J. Watt trying to best the other, and big-time playmakers on offense for both teams.

This game might be lower scoring, but it should be a game fans of classic football will want to watch. With that being said, I think it’s appropriate to take a look at what those who call themselves “experts” think about this game.

When you are talking about NFL Expert Picks there are some websites, like the folks at ESPN, who simply submit a pick. Nothing extra, no explanation, just a pick. Those at the worldwide leader in sports are shockingly split on the outcome of the game.

Then there are the experts who put more effort into their selections, providing some background information on these picks. People like Pete Prisco of CBS Sports explain their pick, and Prisco actually sees the Steelers finding a way to hold serve at home.

Brock Purdy is back for the 49ers, which is the good news. But this will be one of the better defenses he will face so far in his career. That matters. The Steelers are hoping second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett takes a step forward, which I think he will. The 49ers are good and might be a Super Bowl team, but the Steelers will pull off the upset here.

Pick: Steelers 23, 49ers 21

Prisco isn’t the only person who is on board with the Steelers being an upstart team and finding a way to win over the 49ers. Out of the NFL.com crew 3 out of 5 like the Steelers to beat the 49ers at Acrisure Stadium Sunday. Nonetheless, here is the description as to why the Steelers might not be able to get the job done vs. San Francisco.

This is no knock on the Steelers, who are clearly trending in the right direction. The reigning NFC West champion 49ers are just a little better on both sides of the ball. If Brock Purdy has an off day, it’s easy to see Mike Tomlin’s group taking full advantage of miscues and pulling off the upset. I don’t think Kyle Shanahan would be sending Purdy out there if he weren’t convinced the QB can play efficiently enough to get the job done, much like he did last season.

When it comes to in-depth analysis on NFL games, you might not find better coverage than the folks at the Pro Football Network. And Pro Football Network experts like the Steelers and are believers in the Steelers getting points at home.

Katz: I had a lot of success in the preseason betting on the Steelers. Why stop now? I hesitate to call any Week 1 line a “trap” because this is the one week where the books know just as little as us. But, this looks like a trap.

The Steelers’ offense was anemic last season. For most bettors, that’s the last thing they remember. But they’ve looked much improved this preseason. Kenny Pickett is going to be better, and he has no shortage of weapons at his disposal. The 49ers are a great team and are still going to win 10 games, but doesn’t them covering this spread seem so easy here? Not so fast. Steelers get it done at home.

Pick: Steelers +2.5 (-110)

Soppe: This pick requires a little projecting, but don’t they all? Much of the fantasy/betting industry is looking for a big step forward in Year 2 from Kenny Pickett, and if that’s going to happen, Week 1 is a good place to start.

Over the past two seasons, five first-round QBs have made a significant step forward in their second season. Four of them won in Week 1 of that season as an underdog. The lone exception was Trevor Lawrence. While his Jags lost the opener, they did boast a +46 point differential in September. The moral of the story is that if a Year 2 leap is coming, it is usually foreshadowed by an impressive Week 1 showing.

If you’re not buying that train of thought, it’s OK. The Niners are just 4-4 ATS on the road last season compared to 7-2 ATS at home, and the Steelers were 3-1 outright last season when getting three points or less. Those are two interesting trends courtesy of Inside Edge that are worth nothing, as is the fact that unders are 9-1 over the past two seasons when the Steelers face a top-10 run defense.

That last stat doesn’t directly point to a Pittsburgh cover. Still, in a game with an already low total, an under would point toward the team receiving points as a decent play. This feels greasy because I think San Francisco is a very good team, but I’ll take the points in Week 1.

Pick: Steelers +2.5 (-110)

This is a tough game to predict, mainly because it is Week 1 and anything can happen coming out of the gates for all 32 NFL teams, just look at the Detroit Lions shocking the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.

But what do you think will happen with this game? Will the Steelers hold serve? Let us know your prediction in the comments below, and be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers heading into Week 1.

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