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Kyle Shanahan discusses the unknown of facing the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger

The challenge of facing the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger might be more difficult than you think.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Playing the Pittsburgh Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger should be an easier task for the San Francisco 49ers, right?

Maybe not.

In a recent conference call with Pittsburgh media, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was not only glowing of Ben Roethlisberger and all he has accomplished throughout his lengthy NFL career, but also the fact that playing the Steelers without Roethlisberger will be a challenge. Why? Because no one knows what the offense will look like with Mason Rudolph at the helm.

Will it be similar? Will the Steelers look like they did schematically compared to the preseason when Rudolph was playing? The fact one knows.

“Obviously there is going to be a difference when you lose someone like Ben. The way he plays is unique to everyone. Ben has a style that you only see with Ben that has made him one of the best quarterbacks of our generation. You know it’s going to be somewhat different, but we still don’t know how. We have to prepare for everything and be ready for how it’s different in the game. We know it’s going to be a little different. You don’t just run a whole new offense because you change one guy. The first game with him starting you have to see what is different and be ready to adjust.” Shanahan said.

While the offensive game plan can certainly change depending on how Randy Fichtner decides to deploy his troops, but can the same be said about the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety on the defensive side of the football? According to Shanahan the two situations are extremely similar.

“I think it’s the same thing as Rudolph. You know there might be something different. I am very well aware of how good of a player Minkah is and all of the stuff he is capable of doing. But you don’t want to make a lot of stuff up as coaches, which we have a tendency to do because we are a little paranoid and we overthink everything. I am not going to sit there and worry about stuff that is just guessing. You have a very good feel for their defense and what they have always done. You watch during the game and when something is different it will stick out. Then you figure out why they are doing it and you try to counteract it.”

How can Fitzpatrick impact a defense? A lot of ways, according to Shanahan.

“He can play any positon, which everyone knows. Which is a huge advantage for the defense. You never know where they can put him and match people up. That can always change things on third down. Just how you target stuff, what positon they put him at. I think it would be very hard for a guy like that to come play right away with only three practices, but I also know Minkah is a different dude mentally. He can handle a lot of stuff. I expect him to be out there a ton.”

When you read these quotes from the opponent’s head coach, it is more than just coach speak, in my opinion. There is a lot of truth to Shanahan’s words. The Steelers are approaching Week 3 almost as if they are a new team, with a new season about to kick off. The offense could come out and look completely different, and the defense could have a never before seen wrinkles involving the usage of the versatile Fitzpatrick in the back end of the defense.

There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Steelers at this juncture, and for some odd reason there is a buzz around this team within the fan base. Fans are excited to see what the future might hold. Week 3 in Santa Clara, CA will give an early glimpse into that future, and the hope is everyone will love what they see.