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Steelers continue to look inferior to great teams in 30-7 Week 1 loss to the 49ers on Sunday

Did the Steelers 30-7 Week 1 loss to the 49ers at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday afternoon look familiar?

It should have.

It’s become the norm over the past few seasons for Pittsburgh to look totally helpless while going against the best teams the NFL has to offer.

We can go back to 2021 when the Steelers were shellacked by the Bengals, twice, and by the Chiefs, twice.

Sure, Pittsburgh defeated a contending Bills’ team on the road to open up that campaign, but Buffalo more than returned the favor in a 38-3 victory at Highmark Stadium in Week 5 of the 2022 campaign. Three weeks later, at the home of another NFL juggernaut, the Steelers were totally dismantled by the Eagles, 35-13, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

Sunday was a carbon copy of those recent losses to the Bills and Eagles. Pittsburgh’s offense had no answers for the 49ers’ vaunted defense, led by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa, along with Fred Warner, the kind of inside linebacker the Steelers have been searching for since the days of Ryan Shazier.

Kenny Pickett, the first quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, spent the majority of the day looking like a wide-eyed and totally confused rookie; when San Francisco’s defense wasn’t pressuring Pickett into mistakes, it was scheming him into miscues–including two ugly interceptions. Even when Pickett had time to diagnose the 49ers defense on a particular play, he overthrew his open receivers or threw behind them.

Not that Pickett’s receivers were open all that much on Sunday afternoon.

But at least the running game didn’t work, as evidenced by the 41 yards that were accrued on 10 attempts–including 31 on six carries by Najee Harris, whose 5.1 yards per attempt are totally misleading when you consider that 22 came on one run.

The Steelers offense didn’t record a single first down until late in the second quarter when it somehow managed to drive 95 yards on 12 plays and score a touchdown when Pickett connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth on first and goal from the three.

The 49ers were ahead, 20-0, before that scoring drive, and the hope during halftime was that the Steelers defense–that elite defense–would quickly force a three-and-out to start the third quarter.

Much like it often does, the defense mostly escaped the first half without much blame thanks to the aforementioned ineptitude of the offense. “The defense is just out there too much!” was the excuse. Of course, the defense may have been able to give itself a breather every now and then if it wasn’t too busy making Brock Purdy, the last quarterback–and the very last player–selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, look like Joe Montana. While Pittsburgh’s defense was making Purdy look pretty, it was also allowing receiver Brandon Aiyuk to do his best Jerry Rice impression; Aiyuk would go on to finish with eight receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Aiyuk did the majority of his damage in the first half–you know, when the defense was out on the field way too much?

How would the defense look after having about 20 minutes to catch its breath?

It looked awful.

Running back Christian McCaffrey, doing his best Roger Craig impression, went 65 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the third quarter to all but end the competitive phase of Sunday’s game.

McCaffrey finished the afternoon with 152 yards on 22 carries; he really doesn’t need to be compared to any 49ers legends of the past. He’s presently among the best in the business at what he does.

The 49ers, who advanced to the NFC title game last year, have a lot of players who fit that description.

San Francisco, like the Bengals, Bills and Eagles, is one of the most talented and well-rounded teams in the NFL.

The 49ers have great coaching, a plethora of superstars and a ton of depth.

The Steelers, despite an offseason that was lauded for the addition of many noteworthy parts, still appear to be far behind in the race for NFL supremacy.

And if Sunday’s performance was any indication, the Steelers are closer to the bottom of the NFL rankings than they are the top.


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