There is no question that the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) defense will be licking their chops when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) offense. A defense that brings more exotic looks than any other team in the NFL, look for 49ers DC Eric Mangini to dial-up another master-minded game-plan.
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But how will the 49ers defense contain a Steelers offense that has All-Pro WR Antonio Brown at their disposal? By making them one-dimensional all while taking away the seams that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger loves to throw as TE Heath Miller runs his routes.
During the 49ers week 1 win against the Minnesota Vikings, they brought an abundance of foreign looks with their odd-man front. From a 3-3-5 nickel defense to a ’33 stack,’ the Vikings were unprepared for what ‘Mangenius’ threw at them. Whether bringing down safeties down in the box to adding an extra ball-hawk in the secondary, you could tell Vikings second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater was flustered all game long.
So what should the Forever Faithful expect for an encore performance? How about a five sack performance from the stingy defense.
I’ll give Roethlisberger props that he has the knack to extend plays, but that’s not to say the quarterback isn’t immobile.
Just like a basketball player trying to close out on a shooter, a pass-rusher must set his feet by using a ‘stutter-step’ as he approaches Big Ben. If the 49ers front seven can attack Roethlisberger without over-pursuing on their pass-rush, that should be enough to rattle the 12-year quarterback, as he lacks the agility to evade back-side pressure.
Not to mention, the pass-rush would greatly help 49ers’ OLB Aaron Lynch and OLB Ahmad Brooks as they will likely be matched up one-on-one with Miller running the seams, that should bode well for Mangini’s defense as they take away Roethlisberger’s go-to security-blanket.
The game-plan is simple. If the 49ers defense can contain Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams all while forcing their offense to be one-dimensional, that should open up the team’s pass-rush.
The key is to bring Roethlisberger down on initial-contact for sacks — not quarterback hurries, pressures, or knockdowns but SACKS! Because if the 49ers bring the blitz unsuccessfully that will greatly expose the 49ers cornerbacks on the outside.
The Steelers trio of wide-receivers which includes Brown, WR Markus Wheaton and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey all have the speed to make the 49ers pay, so Mangini will have to scheme delayed stunts and blitzes in order to apply the necessary pressure.
So why do I believe the 49ers defense will record at least five sacks on Sunday? Because they will be going up against a backup center for the second consecutive week in C Cody Wallace.
The center is responsible for making all the pre-snap reads which makes life difficult for Wallace. Originally a fourth-round pick (No. 107) of the 2008 NFL Draft by the 49ers, Wallace will be out to prove his worth as he goes up against the team that drafted him.
Last week saw Vikings backup C Joe Berger have trouble with blitz pickups and I expect the same on Sunday, as the 49ers front seven harasses Roethlisberger all game long.
So who will get those five sacks that I predict the defense will have? Those players include OLB Aaron Lynch (2), OLB Ahmad Brooks, DE Quinton Dial, and ILB NaVorro Bowman.
With the 49ers looking for their first winning streak of the season, it will be imperative that they bring down Roethlisberger early and often, as sacks will be key in winning and losing the game.
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