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State of the Steelers, 49ers as Pittsburgh returns to practice ahead of Week 1

The Steelers return to practice Monday after a four-day hiatus. Here’s what to keep an eye on heading into Week 1’s matchup against the 49ers.

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts during the second half of a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers enjoyed a four-day break this weekend ahead of Week 1 kickoff, but now, they’ll return to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh’s southside Monday to get their game week prep underway.

Here’s a look at the state of the Steelers and the 49ers heading into game week.

State of the Steelers

No news is good news, generally speaking, and the Steelers are no exception.

Pittsburgh heads into game week without much of note, which is honestly just about all they could ask for. The Steelers remained relatively healthy throughout the offseason, with just one significant injury of note to rookie CB Cory Trice Jr., whose first NFL season ended before it started after suffering a torn ACL in training camp.

Injuries worth continuing to monitor on the practice reports include OG Nate Herbig, who’s been managing a shoulder injury, as well as DT Larry Ogunjobi (foot), both of whom suffered the injuries earlier in training camp. Neither played in the preseason, but Tomlin spoke with confidence that neither injury was “long-term” a couple of weeks ago.

State of San Francisco

The 49ers have made headlines this offseason for a couple of reasons. First was their handling of the Great Trey Lance Fiasco and subsequent questions about the quarterback position, as Brock Purdy makes his return from a season-ending elbow injury. He seems to be in good shape ahead of the season opener, having played in the preseason, though the team’s been managing his reps leading up to the season.

There’s also the ongoing contract dispute with DE Nick Bosa, who still hasn’t reported to the team as he seeks his long-term extension. While the 49ers ranked top-10 in pressure rate last season, Bosa was an integral part of that.

Drama aside, the 49ers also have a few key injuries to monitor ahead of this game, even excluding the load management of Purdy at quarterback. All-Pro TE George Kittle has been sidelined with a lingering groin injury, with HC Kyle Shanahan hopeful he’ll be ready to start the week. It might be worth noting Kittle’s relatively extensive injury history, having missed the first two games of the 2022 season with — you guessed it — a groin injury.

Also managing injuries have been rookie kicker Jake Moody (thigh), selected 99th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, as well as backup kicker Zane Gonzalez (calf). Shanahan has been hopeful that Moody will be ready for Week 1, but if not, the team will likely look to former Steelers PK Matthew Wright. Wright has pinch-kicked for Chris Boswell on several occasions, having made 16 of 18 field goal attempts with 14/14 extra points made — a decent backup option should the Niners need it.

Another injury on special teams might be a bigger absence, however, as former Steelers receiver Ray-Ray McCloud suffered a broken wrist in August, expected to miss around eight weeks for a projected return in October. He functioned as the 49ers’ primary kick and punt returner last season, having ranked third in the league with 955 yards on returns in 2022. In his absence, the Steelers might see 49ers seventh-round rookie Ronnie Bell, who got some work as a returner in the preseason.