As the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) prepare for their first road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) they will surely need to establish the run. A team that smash-mouthed their way to 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, they will be out for blood once again as they try to impose their will down in the trenches.
However, it won’t come easy as the Steelers are 12-2 in their last 14 home-openers. But this is a very different Steelers team than in years past.
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The Steelers secondary is depleted, their linebackers are young, inexperienced and slow, while their defensive lineman up front are marginal at best. Simply put, the 49ers offensive line should have their way on Sunday, if they commit to the run for four-quarters.
A strategy that won’t come easy by any stretch of the imagination as the Steelers home-field crowd always brings their A-game, it will be up to the 49ers goons up front to help set the tone early and often while keeping penalties to a minimum.
If the 49ers can win their battles up front while creating cut-back lanes for Hyde to hit, that should bode well for the team as they win time of possession.
Last week we saw 49ers LG Alex Boone enjoy one of his best games in recent memory, as he was used more on stretch plays while hitting the second-level with ease. Look for that to continue as he goes up against Steelers DE Cameron Heyward, DE Stephon Tuitt, and NT Steve McLendon.
But what if the 49ers running game stalls? What if for some reason they are unable to generate a stable running game early on due to a stacked box? My answer is stick to the run while then using 12 and 13 personnel.
The 49ers drafted rookie fourth-round pick TE Blake Bell for a reason and it wasn’t to ride the pine. Look for the ‘Belldozer’ to be used more as a blocking tight-end in the team’s jumbo packages, as they inch closer to the red zone.
Whether running the diamond formation read-option for ‘arc blocks,’ or countering the ‘scrape-exchange,’ look for the 49ers to stick to the run game as their cultural identity remains smash-mouth football.
With the 49ers preparing for their first road game under 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula, it will be interesting to see if they stick to the run, as that has been their cultural identity in Week 1.
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