The Pittsburgh Steelers came into Week 3 a battered and bruised team. There was no Ben Roethlisberger under center for the first time since 2016, and there was a certain unknown surrounding the start of the Mason Rudolph era. Nonetheless, off to San Francisco went into Levi Stadium to play the 2-0 49ers in hopes of claiming their first win of the 2019 regular season.
To start the game, the Steelers won the coin toss and decided to defer their possession to the second half, putting their defense on the field to start the game. After Jimmy Garappolo hit George Kittle for a first down, a screen pass was tipped and intercepted by T.J. Watt giving the Steelers the football deep in 49ers territory.
The Steelers’ offense didn’t do much with the free possession, and had to settle for a Chris Boswell 46-yard field goal to give them an early 3-0 lead. Still, points off of turnovers is a huge win for a Steelers team who has struggled in that area so far in 2019.
After both teams exchanged punts, Garoppolo was pressured on second down and another tipped pass sailed into the hands of a Pittsburgh defender. This time it was recently acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick who came down with the pass and set up the offense with tremendous field position for the second time during the opening quarter.
Rudolph and company were able to move the ball to the 5 yard line, but failed on third down when the offensive line wasn’t able to give Rudolph a clean pocket long enough to find an open receiver. The result was another Boswell field goal to make the score 6-0 with 1:29 left in the opening quarter.
On the ensuing San Francisco possession they moved the ball into Pittsburgh territory for the first time, but the drive resulted in their third turnover of the game when Minkah Fitzpatrick forced a fumble which was recovered by Devin Bush. However, Mason Rudolph and company couldn’t turn this turnover into points, and Jordan Berry was called onto duty after just one first down.
For the second straight possession, the 49ers moved the ball into Pittsburgh territory with ease, this time to the 7-yard line, but coming out of a timeout Garoppolo fumbled the snap and Bush recovered for Pittsburgh’s fourth turnover of the half. A bad trend for the Steelers’ offense was another three-and-out, giving the ball right back to the 49ers offense.
With their best starting field position of the game, Jimmy Garoppolo was able to move the offense deep into Pittsburgh territory, again, they were forced to settle for a Robbie Gould chip shot field goal to make the score 6-3 with 6:45 left in the half.
Pittsburgh’s 3rd down offense was dreadful throughout the majority of the first half, but on their final possession of the first half the Steelers were able to find their footing. After three straight conversions, Pittsburgh threatened to move into field goal territory, but a Dee Ford sack on third down pushed them out of field goal range, forcing another punt.
After halftime, Pittsburgh started with the football, but after stringing together a couple first downs Rudolph made his first big mistake as a starter and was intercepted after being flushed out of the pocket to register the first turnover for Pittsburgh of the game. What ensued was a Garoppolo drive that ended in a Jeffrey Wilson Jr. one yard touchdown plunge to give the 49ers a 10-6 lead that felt insurmountable at the time.
On the next drive, it looked like more of the same for Rudolph and company. Painful runs of 3 yards, and it set up a 3rd and 4. A critical moment in the third quarter, but Rudolph hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a crossing route and Smith-Schuster took it to the house for a 76-yard touchdown.
The Boswell point after made the score 13-10 with 5:35 left in the third quarter.
Pittsburgh’s lead didn’t last long after Garoppolo moved the ball with ease into Pittsburgh territory, but it was on the ground where the Steelers’ defense was getting gashed. In that fashion, it was appropriate the Steelers defense gave up another touchdown run by Wilson Jr., this time for 4 yards. The score gave the 49ers a 17-13 lead with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
After both teams exchanged possessions, it was the Steelers who struck next. As Jason Verrett was inserted into the game for the 49ers defense, Rudolph attacked him immediately. First on a deep pass to James Washington, where Verrett was flagged for defensive pass interference, the next on a 39-yard bomb to Diontae Johnson for the Steelers touchdown.
The Chris Boswell point after made the score 20-17 with 10:22 left in regulation.
Clinging to a 3-point lead, the Steelers defense couldn’t stop the San Francisco ground game, and watched them march down the field into a first and goal situation. Trailing by three, and on third down, the 49ers fumbled the football and T.J. Watt recovered giving the ball back to Pittsburgh with a chance to ice the game.
However, football is a strange game and after getting a first down to open the series after the turnover, James Conner was stripped from behind giving the ball right back to San Francisco. After what appeared to be a 3rd down stop, Mark Barron was flagged for defensive holding, giving the 49ers a 1st and goal situation from the 9 yard line. On second down Garoppolo hit Dante Pettis for the go-ahead score.
Trailing 24-20, the Steelers had two timeouts and 1:15 left in regulation the task was too tall for Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh offense as they failed to even convert one first down and turned the ball over on downs.
It iced the game for the 49ers, giving the Steelers their third straight loss to the 2019 regular season, moving their record to 0-3. They now have to prepare for a Monday Night Football game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4.