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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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A speaker addressed protestors at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday.
‘Reclaim Earth Day’ protest calls for Pitt to divest from fossil fuels
By Kyra McCague, Staff Writer • April 24, 2024
Stephany Andrade: The Steve Jobs of education
By Thomas Riley, Opinions Editor • April 24, 2024
The best cafés to caffeinate and cram for finals
By Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

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A speaker addressed protestors at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday.
‘Reclaim Earth Day’ protest calls for Pitt to divest from fossil fuels
By Kyra McCague, Staff Writer • April 24, 2024
Stephany Andrade: The Steve Jobs of education
By Thomas Riley, Opinions Editor • April 24, 2024
The best cafés to caffeinate and cram for finals
By Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Column | 49ers vs Steelers: A tale of two offenses

Pittsburgh+Steelers+running+back+Le%E2%80%99Veon+Bell+%2826%29+rumbles+for+a+first+down+against+the+Cincinnati+Bengals+on++Oct.+22%2C+2017%2C+at+Heinz+Field.+
Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) rumbles for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 22, 2017, at Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers have similar legacies in the annals of NFL history. Both teams had all-time great dynasties, separated by only a decade. The Steelers dominated the league in the 1970s, while the 49ers did the same in the 1980s. The Steelers had head coach Chuck Noll, while the 49ers had Bill Walsh. Those were the best of times.

While the 49ers started their 2023 season in the spring of hope, the Steelers started it in the winter of despair. The 49ers embarrassed the Steelers on their home turf in Acrisure Stadium, beating them 30-7. The Steelers came out flat and quickly let the game get away from them. 

Adding injury to an insult of a game, the Steelers finished the day with several key players injured. Three-time First-Team All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward sustained a groin injury during the game and is expected to miss eight weeks of the season. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson injured his hamstring on the first drive of the third quarter and is expected to miss a few weeks.

It’s impossible to look at this matchup without comparing the two starting quarterbacks. Kenny Pickett and Brock Purdy both started their sophomore seasons in a week one matchup. While Pickett went in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 49ers drafted Purdy in round seven with pick 262, making him 2022’s Mr. Irrelevant.

Despite this disparity in draft stock, Purdy looked leagues better than Pickett on Sunday. Purdy threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns against a highly touted Pittsburgh defense. Pickett, on the other hand, struggled against San Francisco’s formidable defensive unit, throwing for 232 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Of course, in the career of an NFL quarterback, situation determines success. Part of Purdy’s success comes from the offensive threat of Christian McCaffrey — one of the best running backs in the league. McCaffrey put up 169 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers, reaching the end zone on a monstrous 65-yard run early in the second half. 

Steelers running back Najee Harris has proved in the past that he’s no slouch, demonstrated by his back-to-back 1,000+ yard seasons. However, Harris barely made an impact in week one, only putting up 31 yards on six carries.

Another factor in Purdy’s success comes from San Francisco’s offensive game plan. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive play callers in the league The 49ers finished the game with 391 total yards to the Steelers’ 239 yards.

After an entire offseason of scrutiny and calls for his immediate termination, offensive coordinator Matt Canada immediately proved all of his detractors correct with yet another week of uninspired offensive play calling. 

On the Steelers’ first possession of the game, Canada made his undesirable presence known by calling one of his signature plays — a jet sweep resulting in the loss of one yard.

By his own admission, Pickett played poorly in week one. His passes were inaccurate, he made the wrong reads, he missed wide open receivers and he threw two ugly interceptions. Part of the responsibility for this loss lies squarely on Pickett’s shoulders.

For his part, Pickett took due responsibility and said the right things to the media. Many of the Pittsburgh faithful, myself included, still believe in his upside. Canada is another story, as he’s quickly squandering any of the fanbase’s remaining goodwill.

Star linebacker T.J. Watt provided a much needed silver lining in an otherwise dreary Steelers’ gameday. Watt immediately went back to business as usual, tallying up three sacks, two fumbles and a tackle for loss. 

Despite a disappointing team effort on Sunday, there’s still plenty of time left in the season for the Steelers to shake it off and bounce back. While a one-sided week one loss always stings, the 49ers are fresh off an NFC Championship appearance and undoubtedly one of the toughest opponents on the Steelers’ schedule this year.

As head coach Mike Tomlin says, “the standard is the standard.” Unfortunately, the Steelers fell short of that standard in week one.

The Steelers will return to Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 18 for a divisional rivalry matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

About the Contributor
Ben Pisano, Staff Writer