Pittsburgh Steelers @ San Francisco 49ers: Will Steelers save season or will 49ers remain undefeated?
Watch all Sunday's action live on Sky Sports Action from 6pm on Sunday; kick-off is at 9.25pm
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 23/09/19 12:29am
The San Francisco 49ers could move to 3-0 this Sunday when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, exclusively live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event. Here is what to expect...
Seasons so far
The Steelers (0-2) are almost unrecognisable compared to the team we've seen in recent seasons - at least offensively. After letting Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown walk in the offseason, they have now lost Ben Roethlisberger for the year. The 'Killers Bs' are no more.
After a 33-3 demolition at the hands of the Patriots, followed by a tough 28-26 defeat to Seattle in their home opener, is their season over already?
San Francisco (2-0) are one of this year's surprise teams, if only with a small sample size. They have not faced playoff-level competition, but two road wins - and 72 points - is mighty impressive.
They did it with defense in Week One, with two interception returns of Jameis Winston in Tampa, and exploded offensively in Week Two against the Bengals with 571 total yards - 259 on the ground.
Ones to watch
The future is now for the Steelers. When they selected Mason Rudolph in the third round of last year's NFL Draft, Roethlisberger said he was "surprised because I thought in the third round you can get some really good players that can help this team win now."
Now it is Rudolph's time to help the team win, and he comes in with a year of learning and solid weapons around him.
When James Washington was hauling in 39 touchdowns for Oklahoma State in his college career, who was his QB? None other than Rudolph, and the rapport between these two is something to keep your eyes on. Can Rudolph unlock Washington's potential as a deep threat?
Don't let any of this talk of the sophomores take away from the fact that running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster are the offensive centerpieces, and will be heavily involved on Sunday.
Pittsburgh bolstered their defense this week by trading a first-round pick for last year's 11th overall pick Minkah Fitzpatrick, a fantastic defensive back. How much will he play? And how much of an impact might he have?
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo - who missed last season with an ACL injury - is 8-2 as their starter since 2017, boasting the best win percentage (.800) of an QB in that span. He is also undefeated at home in his 49ers career, and you have to be excited about his growth under head coach Kyle Shanahan.
In the backfield, the Niners were supposed to have a Jerick McKinnon-Tevin Coleman duo but with both injured, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert have been outstanding. Look for San Fran to pound the rock again on Sunday.
- The last time the 49ers started out 2-0 with both wins coming on the road was the 1989 season, in which they won their fourth Lombardi trophy
- The last time the Steelers did not have Roethlisberger for 10+ games in a season was 2003 (Tommy Maddox was the QB and the Steelers went 6-10)
- The Steelers have 57 sacks since 2018 (tied-second in NFL)
- Garoppolo had a 131.2 passer rating vs the Bengals in Week Two, which was 1. The highest single-game passer rating in his 49ers career and 2. The highest passer rating for a 49ers QB since Jeff Garcia vs the Cardinals in Week 14, 2003 (135.7)
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