Each week during the regular season, we’ll have five questions about the 49ers with their rival’s SB Nation community. This week ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers game, we talked with Behind the Steel Curtain about the Week 1 game, for which DraftKings Sportsbook has the Niners as 2-point road favorites.
1. Which Steelers player should we expect to make “the jump” this season?
George Pickens is the obvious answer, so I’ll go against the grain and say Jaylen Warren. Undrafted free agent last season who made the team as RB2 behind Najee Harris. He had a 62 yard touchdown rub against the Bills in the preseason, he’s a really good north and south runner. He’ll be a bigger part of the offense and get more touches in 2023.
2. A lot has been made about the Steelers rookie class, which rookies do you think will make an impact in this game?
Darnell Washington. It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but expect the Steelers to go with a lot of 12 personnel with Washington on the left side helping Dan Moore with Nick Bosa. He is a fantastic blocker, and when the Steelers get in the red zone, his 6-foot-8 frame will certainly be a target.
3. Do you believe the Steelers' skill position players will find success against the 49ers pass defense?
I do. Diontae Johnson is going to get his catches, he’s too good at creating space and gaining natural separation. Pickens will have his deep targets and pull down at least one of them. Pat Freiermuth will draw the attention of Fred Warner, and I think that will open up things for guys like Allen Robinson and Calvin Austin to make a select few plays as well. Kenny Pickett looked much better in the pocket throughout camp and preseason, as well, so the expectations are high.
4. What 49ers player worries you the most?
Christian McCaffrey. The Steelers were 18th in EPA per play against the run in 2022. Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi both may not be 100 percent, and there’s a slim chance both miss the game entirely. McCaffrey is such a threat as both a runner and a pass-catcher that you have to always account for him, which will open up things for Deebo, Ayiuk and Kittle.
5. DraftKings Sportsbook expects it to be a low-scoring game, would you take the Over/Under 41.5?
I’m taking the under. It’s 41.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook. There is a high chance of rain, both teams will run the ball, and both have two of the best defenses in the league. I’d expect a score in the range of 20-17.