You could speak to every level of this San Francisco 49ers squad. They are one of the most physical and athletic teams in the league — well-coached and very disciplined. This will be a huge challenge for Mike Tomlin to start the season and if the last two years’ opening games are any indication; he’s up to slowing down this impressive San Francisco team.
Here are five 49ers players to watch and what we’re watching for in Week 1 against the 49ers.
1. RB Christian McCaffrey
When healthy, Christian McCaffrey is almost unstoppable. His fluent running style, speed, and vision make him a nightmare to defend. A threat to win offensive MVP every year, the Steelers Defense needs to be on its toes when he is on the field. He will test the overhauled inside linebacker room out of the gate.
2. RT Colton McKivitz
Drafted in the 5th round in 2020 with only a handful of snaps, Colton will be tested as the new starter on the right side of the San Fran offensive line. He is big and physical as is the rest of the Niners squad. At 6’6 and over 300 lbs, he will need every bit of that size to defend T.J. Watt all afternoon. This will be a very interesting matchup — one that can have a major role in the outcome of the game.
3. TE George Kittle
This 49ers team is loaded, and Kittle is a face of the franchise. With a very similar in style to the Steelers' own Pat Freirmuth, Kittle knows how to get open. He’s physical and a good open-field runner. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers handle Kittle. With Minkah Fitzpatrick likely making the calls on defense, the Steelers should look to employ their three safety sets to combat the Niners charge.
4. WR Brandon Aiyuk
Speed and more speed. Brandon can take the top off of a defense at any time. Keeping big plays to a minimum will be key to the Steelers' gameplan. Making sure Aiyuk doesn’t get behind the defense is a start.
5. 49ers defensive line
Watch this 49ers defense in general. Pittsburgh will most likely face its toughest test of the season offensively. With Nick Bosa signing his mega-deal, he’s sure to want to show off what the team invested in. On the other end is Drake Jackson, who because of who plays opposite of him, will have plenty of opportunity to create chaos. In the middle are potential Pro Bowlers in Arik Armstead and former Steeler Javon Hargrave, who signed a sizeable deal this offseason moving on from the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.