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Insider Only Steelers project to see a lot of Multiple groupings, two-three tight end sets from 49ers



The San Francisco 49ers come to Pittsburgh in week 2 on short rest to go with a cross-country trip. Little surprise the Steelers have opened up as 6.5 point favorites but this one could be a tougher matchup than anticipated a month or two ago.

The 49ers ravished this off-season by retirements have been looked at by some as a likely pushover this season. San Francisco, though, for one week knocked their critics in the mouth with a 20-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. The Vikings being a team regarded as a playoff sleeper in the NFC.

“They played good ball last night,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the 49ers win over Minnesota. “Thought they dominated the line of scrimmage.

Defensively the 49ers were swarming all over the field, showing unique blitzing schemes in providing pressure on third down as the 49ers sacked Teddy Bridgewater five times and held Adrian Peterson to 31 yards rushing.

Minnesota was 1-9 on third down.

San Francisco was very effective at dialing up pressure and bogus pressure schemes on third down that Bridgewater struggled with.

“They mixed up third down well,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin felt the 49ers ability to stop Adrian Peterson on first down with their safeties playing “high package” told the story of the confidence they had in their front-seven.

“Defense, the story of the game was the ability to minimize on Adrian Peterson on first and 10,” Tomlin said. “Allowed guys like [NaVorro] Bowman to do what Bowman does. Play good packaged defense. Started upfront in their ability to win line of scrimmage.”

Colin Kaepernick was 17/26 for 165 yards and added 41 rushing yards. The big story of the game for San Francisco was Carlos Hyde who gashed the Vikings for 168 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Tomlin, though, is concerned about the problems Kaepernick can give the Steelers defense with his legs.

“Kaepernick’s mobility is going to be an issue for us,” Tomlin said. “This guy can create issues for us from a design run standpoint and also improv.”

Mike Vick will play the role of Kaepernick in practice this week.

What stood out with San Francisco’s offense vs Minnesota was the pace they were playing with and the multiple groupings they showed.

The Steelers struggle defending tight ends in the middle of the field is no secret and San Francisco projects to attack the Steelers with the same type of game plan that had them using two and three tight end sets vs Minnesota.

“Saw some good Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" concept things,” Tomlin said. “Two tight end sets, three tight end sets.”

Vernon Davis provides the vertical threat at the tight end position, while Garrett Celek who has just 11 career receptions, hauled in 3 receptions for 40 yards, including a catch of 20 yards vs Vikings.

Mis-direction runs and Kaepernick’s ability on play-action makes the Steelers ability to minimize big plays from San Francisco’s duo at tight end as a key area to watch in the game.

At wide receiver, the Steelers know what to expect from Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, San Francisco’s No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. Smith is a one-trick money with the ability to take the top off the defense. Smith had just one reception in week 1.

Tomlin made it known the Steelers have to be prepared for Reggie Bush giving San Francisco a change of pace. Bush is questionable for the game due to a calf injury.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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