PITTSBURGH — Star defensive end Nick Bosa will play for the San Francisco 49ers against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and he says he feels comfortable with playing a full workload despite getting in just two practices after signing his contract extension earlier this week.
“I’d be up for a normal workload, for sure,” Bosa said. “But I haven’t talked to him (Kyle Shanahan), yet.”
Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt has been in his shoes, making nearly the same decision back in 2021. In his return, Watt racked up two sacks, five quarterback hits, and eight pressures in a dominating performance. Bosa will look to do the same when he faces the Steelers tackles.
And Watt thinks he can do it.
“I don’t really know if there’s much lag,” Watt said after practice on Friday. “If anything, it’s fresh legs. It’s a lot of want-to and desire. I mean, this guy hasn’t been able to play football in a long time. So you just want to come back.”
Watt did say that if there’s a potential pitfall to not participating in training camp, it’s the risk of injury, not a lack of effectiveness. The soft tissue injuries that can arise from a lack of football activity is the most concerning part for Bosa.
“It’s just more of, down the road, soft tissue things,” he said. “You need to get back into football shape. As far as Week 1, you can expect a guy like that to be playing his butt off.”
Coming off a Defensive Player of the Year campaign, the concern should not be a performance for Bosa. He is one of the elite talents on the 49ers defense, and the Steelers know that. Posting 18.5 sacks a year ago, Bosa cashed in with a massive contract on Wednesday. But Pittsburgh prepared as Bosa would play. With Javon Hargrave paired with Arik Armstead on the interior, the 49ers are looking to bring the thunder against Kenny Pickett and the offense.
Watt will look to do the same on the other side, with an advantageous matchup against the inexperienced Colton McKivitz. McKivitz is being thrown into the fire, and Watt should have himself a game to put Brock Purdy on alert. It will be a battle of two elite edge rushers in the NFL, and both offensive lines should be tested.