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What 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan Said about Steelers Defense



Minkah Fitzpatrick as the Steelers 49ers played against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)
Minkah Fitzpatrick as the Steelers played against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has seen it all as one of the NFL’s best offensive gurus. However, the 49ers and their young quarterback Brock Purdy, will face a unique challenge in the Steelers’ defense. With stars all over the unit, Pittsburgh has a few game wreckers that can take over games.

During his press conference on Wednesday, Shanahan addressed guys such as Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick that the 49ers will have to deal with across the Steelers’ defense. A year ago, the same unit of talented players went into Cincinnati and knocked off Joe Burrow and the talented Bengals team in shocking fashion.

“They play as hard as anyone. Their D-Line, their linebackers, their secondary, they all get after it,” Shanahan said. “They’re an extremely physical group. We haven’t played them for a number of years, but just watching, [DT Cameron] Heyward, watching [LB T.J.] Watt, [S] Minkah [Fitzpatrick], I mean those guys, not only are they as they as talented as it gets, but the mindset they play with, the effort they play with. When you don’t see a team for a while because you know not being in the AFC and it’s been like three-four years since we’ve gone against them. You don’t know where they’ve come and it’s very obvious why they won seven out of the last nine games. It’s just watching the defensive side of the ball and then get into their offense, seeing some of the players they have and the way that quarterback’s been playing and the way he played last year at the end of the year. It’s been real impressive.”

That group will test the 49ers weapons, though they bring plenty of weapons, such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk, that they must contend with in the offense. With a potential mismatch up front, the Steelers expect that the quick game could be coming on screens and other manufactured plays in space for the 49ers to get explosive plays while neutralizing the pass rush.

That will be a key for Pittsburgh’s defense, while they try to force Purdy into dangerous passes. Fitzpatrick’s role in that will be essential as the rover of the Steelers’ defense. Expect the Steelers to use him all over the football field to condense the middle of the field.

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