Pittsburgh Steelers: Heinz Field Kickoff


The Pittsburgh Steelers are fully rested and ready to open their home schedule for 2015 this Sunday when they host the 1-0 San Francisco 49ers.

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It will be a short home stand for the Steelers as they travel next weekend to St. Louis to tackle the Rams. For this weekend, the challenge will be to shore up their defensive ability to stop the run with San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde fresh off a 168-yard rushing performance.

With a surprising Rams team looming ahead and then a return home to face the Baltimore Ravens, a victory on Sunday against the 49ers could prove to be crucial at this early part of the season. As it may be this entire season, the onus on success could very well be resting on the shoulders of the defense.

It would be hopeful for Steelers fans that this time off since their loss in New England has provided some lessons and tightening up on the defensive side and finding a way to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Colin Kaepernick is a mobile quarterback who does not like sitting in the pocket. Pittsburgh will be challenged by that but has good speed at linebacker which might make the San Francisco QB think twice about running.

But in his home opener last Monday, Kaepernick rushed for 41 yards on just seven carries. While he only threw for 165 yards, he was efficient in doing so with 17 of 26 passes finding their mark. Kaepernick also was sacked just once.

San Francisco had perhaps the worst off-season of any team in the NFL, dumping Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith for disciplinary issues weakening their defense. But they managed a win over Minnesota however, they now must face off against one of the most potent offenses in the league. They will certainly have their hands full in what should be a raucous home crowd in Pittsburgh.

When San Francisco has the ball: What a fun story the 49ers have on offense with rookie Jarryd Hayne. A former professional rugby player, Hayne had never played a single down of American football until just a few weeks ago when he decided to take a stab at putting a helmet on for the first time. Make no mistake, the kid is tough.

Rugby is a very physical sport and it is played without the use of helmets and shoulder pads among other protection. Hayne runs with reckless abandon so he is a joy to watch.

With that said, San Francisco has other weapons to key on. It starts with the quarterback but extends to keeping the hot Carlos Hyde in check and not allowing the beast Vernon Davis to make big plays. Reggie Bush is still hanging around but Hyde has taken his spotlight.

Again, Pittsburgh will be focusing on stopping the run, something they did not do well in trying to limit New England’s Dion Lewis. Lewis only had 69 yards, but he averaged 4.6 per-carry. If the Steelers can shut down the run and keep Kaepernick from ripping off big runs rolling out, they could have a huge day while the offense puts up points.

When Pittsburgh has the ball: Here’s where it gets interesting. Still without Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers should easily survive this week without his services while DeAngelo Williams gets another start and a chance to add to his already impressive yardage total on the ground.

Martavis Bryant is still out but that only means more of Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, and perhaps we will see the 2015 and NFL debut of rookie Sammie Coates. There’s a chance here that Ben Roethlisberger and his offense could score early and often. This game has the potential to get very ugly for the 49ers defensively.

Intangibles: There’s nothing like a home opener when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It means football season has arrived again and the fans get pumped up for it. The noisy crowd should help urge Pittsburgh on to a victory and Mike Tomlin does not lose two consecutive games very often.

Prediction: The game could get out of control. Pittsburgh 35 San Francisco 14.

Next: Penguins: Five Thoughts Entering Training Camp

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