Despite 5 Takeaways, Steelers lose to 49ers 24-20

In the 1970’s, whenever the Pittsburgh Steelers defense forced 5 turnovers in a game, it
guaranteed a victory. Their defense usually took over games leading to  4 Super Bowl victories;in 6 years 4 Hall of Famers , as well as a 1976 team that fell short of the Super Bowl, but still had one of the best defensive units in National Football League (NFL) history.
The 2019 verison of the Black and Gold proved that times have changed. Coach Mike Tomlins’ defensive unit forced 5 turnovers, only to come up  four points short in San Francisco at Levi’s Stadium.

4 of those turnovers came in tthe first quarter : Two fumbles, and 2 interceptions, one INT  by newly acquired safety  Minkah Fitzpatrick, who also forced one of the fumbles. Rookie Linebacker  Devin Bush recovered another one of the fumbles and fellow LB TJ Watt had the other interception. Watt later went on to  recover a fumble in the 4 th quarter.

So, what went wrong? Unfortunately, with those 4 first-quarter fumbles, the Steelers offense could only generate 6 points off 2 Chris Boswell Field Goasl as they struggled with new Quarter Back  Mason Rudolph making his first official start after replacing veteran Ben Roethlisberger, who’s season ended due to injury to his elbow.

Last week, Rudolph looked sharp in relief of Roethlisberger, passing for 112 yards and 2 TDs,despite the Steelers losing to the Seattle Seahawks. This week, he looked more like a rookie as he failed to complete several passes after those turnovers, although he finally shook those struggles off in the 2nd half as he passed for 2 TDs, one to WR JuJu Smith-Shuster, and the other to Rookie Dionte Johnson.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Steelers fall to 0-3 for the first time since 2013. That team ended up at 8-8 but failed to make the playoffs.
“We get ready for next week,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s as simple as that. That’s life in the National Football League. It’d be the same had we won. We’re not into the keep it together discussions. That’s not how we’re built.”

It appears that the Steelers need to do some soul-searching as it clearly appears that they look like they’re not as talented as they were without Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and
Antonio Brown. The expectation was that they would rally around Rudolph, running back James Conner and an offensive line that’s produced 3 Pro-Bowlers. Not to mention a rebuilt defense that has the rookie Bush and the newly acquired veteran in  Fitzpatrick, but so far, it’s not working.The once-proud Steelers look like they’re in trouble.

 

Although they only had 2 FGs, the Steelers led the 49ers 6-3 at halftime,  at the start of the 3rd quarter, Rudolph threw his 2nd interception and the 49ers capitalized
as Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. scored on a 1-yard TD to give the 49ers a 10-6 lead. After Rudolph found Smith-Shuster for a 76-yard TD to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead, Wilson Jr. scored again,and the 49ers led 17-13. Then Rudolph found Johnson for the TD and they led 20-17, but the 49ers were driving again, this time, Wilson Jr. would fumble deep in the Red Zone, and it was recovered by Watt, giving the ball back to the Steelers with over 6 minutes left.

It appeared that the Steelers would finally put themselves in position to get their first win as the clock ticked, but Conner made a costly fumble, which gave the ball back to the 49ers with over 2 minutes left. Niners QB  Jimmy Garoppolo (23-32, 277 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT) eventually found  Duane Pettus for the 5-yard TD, giving the 49ers a 24-20 lead, which was the final score.

The Positives: The defense and their 5 takeaways. They showed great promise as they held the 49ers to a FG in the first half. Rudolph (14-27, 174 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT) when he began to show more confidence as he passed for 2 TDs in the 3 rd quarter. Boswell, who’s 2 FG makes him a perfect 5-5 thus far for 2019.

The Negatives: Rudolph in the first half as he had problems finding his WRs. The defense, who disappeared after their impressive 1st half; gave up 21 points in the second half.
Conner’s fumble which ended the Steelers chances at securing their first win of the season.

Outlook: If the Steelers could score some TDs with how the defense played in the first half of this game, they can get their first win of the season. It would also help if they could generate their running game, which has struggled in the young season. Conner was only able to rush for 43 yards on 13 carries. Plus, the offensive line needs to open holes and continue to give Rudolph time to throw the ball. The Steelers need to regroup and aim for that win number one  when they welcome the 0-3 Cincinnati Bengals to Heinz Field next Monday night (Sept 30th ). Winning tends to cure everything.

 

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com
Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

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