Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to start their season with a bang by routing the Vegas NFL odds favorites, the San Francisco 49ers, at home on Sunday. For the Steelers, a win against one of the strongest squads in the league could be the perfect way to put their division on notice. But then again, we’re talking about beating one of the best teams in the NFC.
In a matchup with all the components to be a perfect “game of the week” candidate, what are some key factors to look into, and what are our expert NFL predictions?
T.J. Watt Could Rip Niners OL a New One
If I had to choose between getting hit by a cannonball and T.J. Watt, I would show that ball I can take a hit. Screw having to get hit by a defensive behemoth like Watt. Thankfully for the Steelers, having Watt as their premier weapon on defense could end up paying the biggest dividends.
The biggest key to stopping the Niners on offense is to break through their offensive line, reach the passer, and of course, rough the passer like there’s no tomorrow. For T.J. Watt, that’s like taking a walk in the park. In its last game, San Francisco’s offensive line showed it can crack easily if pressured. And you know who loves to pressure and destroy O-lines? Yes, Watt.
Between that and a solid performance from Kenny Pickett and the offense, the Steelers should have a very good chance to pull off the upset.
Steelers vs Niners Odds
How Will Purdy Fare?
The Niners are sold on Brock Purdy being their starting QB moving forward, and they are hoping that his second year in the pros ends up being one for the ages. As one of the favored teams to win Super Bowl LVIII – according to our NFL odds page – Purdy is expected to be the leader this team needs, so a win against Pittsburgh is a must.
If the Niners wish to win in Pittsburgh and help Purdy play some of his best football, protection will be critical. The last thing San Francisco can afford is to have a banged-up Purdy to start the season, so keeping Pittsburgh’s elite pass rushers away will be essential. A strong performance from OT Trent Williams will be pivotal, especially with the rest of San Francisco’s O-line not up to par when compared to Williams.
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Ride With Pickett’s Over in Passing TDs
Pickett showed this offseason that he has the right tools and framework to become the franchise’s QB. Now, once games truly start to count, and in front of Pittsburgh’s loyal fan base, it’s time for Kenny to put up or shut up.
Lucky for Pickett, Pittsburgh’s offensive line should give him enough protection to move around his pocket with ease and take his time to move the ball downfield. With the group of receivers he has to work with, taking Pickett to pass for over 1.5 TDs is a no-brainer. So roll with that, make bank, and thank me later.
Bet on the Game Total Going Over
One thing both teams in this matchup bring to the table is offensive firepower. Both Pickett and Purdy are ready to make this the year in which they solidify their status as their respective franchise’s QBs for the future.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that both have strong weapons to work with both in the passing and running game. In short, even with this being the season’s first game for both squads, beating the over, which currently stands at 41 ½ at our sportsbook, should be easy work for the Steelers and Niners.
Pick: Total Over 41½
Upset Alert! Steelers Take Down Niners at Home
In the past couple of years, the Steelers have become sort of experts at upsetting NFL betting odds favorites in week 1. Back in 2021, they took down the Buffalo Bills. Last year, it was the Cincinnati Bengals who fell victim. So what’s stopping them from doing the same this time against the 49ers?
If Pickett can get rolling early, and the defense can contain McCaffrey and Purdy’s production, it will be three years in a row that Pittsburgh starts their season taking down an NFL lines favorite in Week 1.