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Grades from the 49ers 30-7 win over the Steelers




I'm usually more of a tough grader, but after a convincing Week 1 victory, there's plenty of love to go around.


Brock Purdy: B+

He wasn't asked to make a ton of plays, but Purdy continued to do what he always does: Get the ball to the open man. Unlike his predecessors in San Francisco, Purdy came out of the gates on fire, hitting 10 his first 12 passes for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns.


Better still, he also used his legs to avoid pressure and extend multiple plays, including leaving an unblocked Minkah Fitzpatrick grasping at air before a 10 yard completion to Deebo Samuel. Fitzpatrick is an athletic freak in league full of athletic freaks, and Purdy easily avoided him on that play. That's something only a few quarterbacks in this entire league would be able to do.


Christian McCaffrey: A

In what I'm betting (literally) was the first game of an Offensive Player of the Year campaign, McCaffrey was excellent. CMC consistently broke through the line of scrimmage, often with a spin or a jump cut. He touched the ball 25 total times on the day, and his 65 yard run on the first possession of the second half squashed any momentum the Steelers might have had following their lone touchdown of the day.


One more incredible note, courtesy of Nick Wagoner on Twitter: Christian McCaffrey had a career-high 112 rushing yards after contact, 62 of which came after contact on that long touchdown. McCaffrey is the only player to record 100 rushing yards after contact in a game against the Steelers in the last 15 seasons.


Brandon Aiyuk: A+

This was the Aiyuk 49ers fans have been telling people was in there, but had yet to fully show itself. That ended Sunday in Pittsburgh, where Aiyuk caught all 8 of his targets for a career high 129 yards, and 2 touchdowns.


Simply put, he was everywhere. Any time the 49ers needed a big play or a key conversion, Brandon Aiyuk was there - and usually by himself. At one point, I saw a Steelers fan on Twitter say, "Can anybody cover Brandon Aiyuk?!"


No. No, they can't.


Oh by the way, there was also Aiyuk's get block on CMC's 65 yard touchdown run that brought back visions of Kyle Juszczyk's stiff arm on Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019.


Defensive Line: A

I know I'm getting repetitive here, but this is what happens when you blow a team out 30-7 on the road. Everyone has to play well for that to happen.


The Niners had pressure on 30 of Kenny Pickett's 51 drop backs on Sunday. The defensive line wasn't responsible for every single one of them, but when you put pressure on 59% of the opposing QB's drop backs, your defensive line is doing something right.


One encouraging thing? 11 of those 30 pressures came from Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw - the interior of the defensive line. That's an area that the 49ers wanted to improve this year, and they obviously did it so far.


Another encouraging thing? Drake Jackson had 3 sacks on the day. That matches his entire total from 15 games a year ago. Jackson made no secret of the fact that he didn't take care of his body properly as a rookie, and he came into training camp looking like a different person. That hard work paid off on Sunday.


Linebackers: A

Fred Warner was a heat-seeking missile on running plays and covered the middle of the field like a damn defensive back against the pass. It's to the point now where Warner's recognition is so good you can't measure his performance by what happens on the field - you have to judge it by the plays he prevents.


Not to be left out, Dre Greenlaw was flying around the field like a bat out of Hell. Greenlaw notched six total tackles in the game and all of them rattled the ball-carrier's teeth. There were multiple instances of Greenlaw covering a ton of ground and making a one-on-one tackle in space that prevented the Steelers from making bigger plays.


After the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said, "We got kicked in the teeth today...in a lot of ways."


Greenlaw and Warner were the reasons why.


Secondary: B

This was definitely the toughest unit to grade because their job was made easier by the constant pressure up front and a big injury to Dionte Johnson early in the second half. That said, Mooney Ward and Talanoa Hufanga did grab interceptions and Kenny Pickett did basically nothing all day long.


Had Deommodore Lenior not committed two penalties on the Steelers' lone scoring drive of the day, they probably would have gotten an A grade as well.


Special Teams: A-

Jake Moody was a perfect 6 for 6 on kicks in this one, including some weirdness around his first professional field goal. Tomlin called a timeout before the attempt, then the Steelers jumped offsides and blocked the next snap, and finally Moody calmly drilled a 41 yard field goal to make it a 10-0 game.


Mitch Wishnowsky handled kickoffs in this one, and nearly ran for a first down on that blocked field-goal-that-wasn't early in the game. He also had all 3 of his punts downed inside the 20 yard line, pinning the Steelers deep in their own territory.


Ray-Ray McCloud played four weeks after breaking his wrist, which is kind of amazing in-and-of itself. He also made a very smart play on a punt that may have glanced off a teammate during a return McCloud wasn't planning on making. Instead of sitting back and hoping the replay review went his way, McCloud fielded the ball and actually ended up gaining 20 yards on the return.


The only blemish for the unit on the day was kickoff coverage. The Steelers averaged 30 yards per return and were very close to breaking three long ones on the day. That fact was not lost on Kyle Shanahan, who eventually chose to kick a line drive into the corner of the end zone at one point to avoid another big return.

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