The Pittsburgh Steelers were off to a rough start in the 2023 NFL season as they were beaten by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. The Steelers were expected to put up a good fight against the 49ers, but they failed to do so. In this article, we will take a closer look at the game and identify the four Steelers players or personnel to blame for the loss.
Steelers Lose to 49ers, 30-7
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the San Francisco 49ers with a score of 30-7. The Steelers started the game strong but were unable to maintain their momentum. The team had difficulties executing plays on both offense and defense, which ultimately led to their loss. Quarterback Kenny Pickett completed 31 out of 46 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown, and unfortunately, two interceptions. Pickett's inability to make good decisions with the ball cost the Steelers the game. The offensive line was also unable to protect Pickett, allowing him to be sacked four times. The Steelers' defense had a challenging time stopping the 49ers' offense. Brock Purdy threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns to Brandon Aiyuk in his return from offseason elbow surgery. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers' running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for 151 yards.
Here we will look at the four Steelers players to blame for their ugly Week 1 loss to the 49ers.
1. Kenny Pickett
Kenny Pickett had garnered substantial attention and accolades following his impressive preseason performance. The young quarterback entered Sunday's match against the San Francisco 49ers with lofty expectations. Some even considered him a potential MVP candidate. However, it became evident rather quickly that Pickett was not in top form.
For one, Pickett made an unwise decision when he attempted a deep pass on a corner route to Diontae Johnson. The latter was tightly covered by Charvarius Ward. The pass ended up being underthrown and intercepted by Ward. In the initial drive of the second quarter, Pickett narrowly avoided throwing an interception to Fred Warner. Moreover, penalties and a sack pushed the Steelers backward. These resulted in a net loss of 3 yards over four drives.
While Pickett was not the sole contributor to the team's struggles, his performance was subpar, to say the least. It would be an understatement to say he had an off day. In fact, he had a 68.4 passer rating. His accuracy was inconsistent, exemplified by a missed opportunity to connect with a wide-open Johnson on a five-yard route that could have been a touchdown at the end of the first half. He also endured multiple sacks and appeared out of sync with his wide receivers. It's worth noting that the receivers didn't offer much assistance, but Pickett's performance was far from what he demonstrated in the preseason.
It's also important to emphasize that the 49ers did not employ an extraordinary game plan against Pickett. Instead, it was Pittsburgh's own mistakes and errors that weighed heavily in their inability to secure a victory. Simply put, the performance was subpar and far from sufficient.
2. Defensive Line
Pittsburgh faced adversity in their defensive front. Larry Ogunjobi entered the game without having taken a single snap in a stadium this year. Cam Heyward valiantly attempted to play through a groin injury but couldn't sustain it. DeMarvin Leal also missed a few snaps due to an elbow injury.
However, when all was said and done, this unit fell short. They struggled to disengage from their blockers and apply substantial pressure. Isaiahh Loudermilk, Montravius Adams, and their fellow teammates made limited contributions. The Steelers managed to score late in the first half, but any hopes of a potential comeback were dashed by McCaffrey's 65-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second half. Apart from the potential of Heyward and Keeanu Benton, this team appears to lack a standout lineman.
3. Patrick Peterson
Leading up to the game, Patrick Peterson had been vocal about predicting an interception off Purdy and recognizing the 49ers' tendencies. However, San Francisco accepted the challenge and emerged victorious on the field. Peterson actually allowed two first-half touchdowns to Brandon Aiyuk. While some could argue for mitigating circumstances, including slipping on the first touchdown and a well-executed throw and catch on the second, they still counted as touchdowns. Peterson had a challenging first half, even dropping a potential interception. His pre-game comments added to the disappointment of his performance.
4. Mike Tomlin
The head coach set the tone for the team, and on this particular day, it appeared flat. This reflects not only on the players but also on the coaching staff. While Mike Tomlin didn't make any glaring in-game mistakes, it was evident that the Steelers were not at their best. The responsibility for this lackluster performance falls on the entire team, with Tomlin ultimately accountable. Tomlin's failure to adequately prepare the team for the game and make necessary adjustments during the game played a significant role in the Steelers' loss.
In summary, the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss to the San Francisco 49ers can be attributed to their struggles in executing plays on both sides of the ball. Kenny Pickett, the defensive line, Patrick Peterson, and Mike Tomlin are four key figures who share some responsibility for the loss. To have a successful season, the Steelers must make substantial improvements moving forward.