Steelers. 49ers. Two teams that dominated and changed the game in the post 1970 merger. Yet the past is the past. The San Francisco 49ers have had the best season in almost eight years, going 10-3. The Steelers have been their usual self, going 10-3 as well. Both teams have clinched playoff berths. But with the Ravens being upsetted by the Chargers on Sunday night, the Steelers have one last chance to win the division. If they win out, they clinch the division for the fourth time in Mike Tomlin’s five years as head coach. With the season coming to close, this is a golden opportunity for the Steelers. Yet, injuries have derailed the team. But is it enough to cost them this game? Lets find out.
First and foremost, here are the Keys To the Game:
You knew this was coming. The winner of this game will have to do well in this department. For the Steelers, the offensive line has been a huge question mark for year. This year, the team has been in sync, doing better then ever in line play. Yet with Pro Bowl Center Maurkice Pouncey out, the line will struggle. Add to the fact that Marcus Gilbert is also injured, and the line is in trouble. The 49ers are known or their ferocious defense, and have looked like a younger version of the Steel Curtain. But with Patrick Willis questionable with a hamstring injury, the Steelers have dodged a bullet.
As for the 49ers O-line, they’re in for trouble as well. Although dominating most of their opposition’s D-line, the 49ers have struggled against elite D-lines. Take a look at the Ravens shellaking on Thanksgiving Day. And with the Ravens being a carbon copy of the Steelers, things to not look well in San Fransisco.
Deciding who wins this one is tough. But ultimately, the fact that an injured Big Ben is going under center behind a decimated line and that James Harrison will not be in the backfield for the Steelers, you know who I’m picking.
Edge: 49ers, but barely
This one is an important one as well. The Steelers have one of the best WR cores in the game. With the speed and toughness each wideout posses, the 49ers have a huge task to them. The passing game is also the biggest weapon the Steelers have, and they have relied on the pass since 2008. Sure the Steelers will be sacked several times, but this team will not give up. At worst, they will do what they did against New England, and throw quick passes and run a West Coast Offense. As I said earlier, the 49ers will most probably get more sacks. But they will give up more big plays. Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, and Co. strike fear in the hearts of anyone. The 49ers dont have the secondary to defend these guys. This will cause the LB core to drop back in coverage, and that’s when the Steelers run.
As for the 49ers, they wont do well in this area. Alex Smith is having the best season of his life. But he’s still a game manager. The 49ers rely on their run game, and it has worked throughout the season. Again, the 2011 49ers remind me of the 2005 Steelers. But the elite teams need a QB that can carry the team. Im sorry, but Alex Smith is not that. Plus, who is he gonna throw it to? Vernon Davis is probably the biggest threat. Crabtree will be shutdown by Taylor. Polamalu will be attacking the line of scrimage. Woodley could cover Gore. Basically, the 49ers passing game is non existent. If they cant run, they wont be able to run the play-action . If they can’t run the play-action, then the 49ers are in trouble.
I think the main factor despite the two I’ve named are the injuries. Roethlisberger, Sanders, Pouncey, etc. are injured on the Steelers side. The 49ers really only have Willis injuried. On top of that, Harrison is suspended. For more info on that, read my previous post. If the Steelers want to win this game, they need to overcome these adversities. But for now;
Steelers win. Im sorry, but the 49ers dont have the offense to compete in this game. Sure, the Steelers have a ton of injuries. Yet the standard is the standard in Pittsburgh. Score: 34-17. Expect the Steelers offense to erupt and their defense to dominate.