In what was probably the most well-rounded Week 1 performance of Kyle Shanahan’s tenure as head coach, the San Francisco 49ers crushed the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-7. Following a wild offseason of storylines, the Niners came out of their first game of the season looking like a favorite to make another deep postseason run.
Here are position-by-position grades from the win:
Purdy picked up right where he left off last season, moving well in the pocket while consistently giving his receivers opportunities to make plays downfield. It’s hard to know what Purdy’s ceiling is and what he would look like without his impressive supporting cast, but he’s already been more consistent than Jimmy Garoppolo. He did fumble twice, losing one to T.J. Watt. The Iowa State product did not fumble once last season, so there is not too much reason for concern. However, it’s obviously worth watching.
Running backs: A
Acquiring Christian McCaffrey without trading a first-round pick continues to look like a steal for the 49ers. He racked up 169 total yards on 25 touches and averaged nearly four yards per carry, even if his 65-yard touchdown run was removed from his tally. McCaffrey did fumble once, although he was able to recover it. Elijah Mitchell only racked up 10 yards on five carries, but
Tight ends: B-
George Kittle only caught three of his six targets for 17 receiving yards, but he caught a critical early fourth-down conversion and made his presence felt throughout the game. No other tight ends were targeted.
Wide receivers: A+
There have been plenty of hyped-up receivers who failed to take an expected step forward, but Brandon Aiyuk made all the hype seem understated on Sunday. He dominated the Steelers secondary on routes all over the field, hauling in all eight of his targets for two touchdowns and 129 receiving yards. Deebo Samuel had five receptions for 55 yards and added eight rushing yards on two carries, but Aiyuk was the star of the show.
Offensive line: B-
Colton McKivitz had a tall task against T.J. Watt, and he did not exactly live up to the challenge. Granted, it’s hard to knock him too much for getting beat by one of the five best pass rushers in the NFL. While Purdy helped cover up some protection issues, the Niners offensive line did hold up well against heavy boxes in the run game.
Defensive line: A+
Nick Bosa was held to just one quarterback hit in his first post-extension game. However, the Niners made the Steelers pay for building a game plan around stopping Bosa. Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave were a nightmare for Pittsburgh’s interior offensive line, and Drake Jackson got to clean up plenty off the edge, recording three sacks and two tackles for loss.
Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are still excellent at football, although Warner is probably still kicking himself for his dropped interception.
Ambry Thomas was benched before the end of the game, and his rough performance keeps an otherwise great cornerback group from reaching the A range. Mooney Ward shut down Diontae Johnson and had the Niners' first interception of the season.
Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga continued to complement each other well at the back of the 49ers defense. Hufanga had an excellent interception and arguably made the coolest play of the day by throwing a lateral on the return. While it was illegally forward, the game was far enough out of reach that we can celebrate the style points.
Special teams: A+
Jake Moody made every kick. Mitch Wishnowsky had a 56-yard punt. Ray-Ray McCloud averaged nearly 14 yards per punt return.