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49ers 2023 Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

The countdown to training camp and the 2023 NFL regular season has begun with the league releasing report days for each of the 32 clubs. The San Francisco 49ers have set a rookie report day of July 18, and veterans are expected back in Santa Clara a week later on July 25.

As all 32 teams begin gearing up for training camp, is breaking down some of the key matchups of the upcoming season in this 2023 opponent preview series. We'll also hear directly from the opposition on their club's biggest offseason moves.

Up next, we are previewing the first of the 49ers opponents for the 2023 campaign. San Francisco will travel cross-country to open up the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. This will be the first meeting between these two teams since Week 3 of the 2019 season.

2022 Season Recap

The Steelers organization entered a new era in 2022 after losing longtime franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and general manager Kevin Colbert to retirement during the prior offseason. Colbert completed the 2022 NFL Draft before calling a career, and he was succeed by Omar Khan with Eric Weidl as his assistant general manager.

The starting quarterback situation for Pittsburgh was much less definitive over the course of the year with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being named the Week 1 starter and then losing the job to rookie Kenny Pickett during the team's Week 4 matchup against the New York Jets. Trubisky would go on to have a few more starts in relief of Pickett, who entered concussion protocol twice throughout the season.

The Steelers opened up the year at 2-6 before finding their groove and winning seven of their last 11 games. Pittsburgh finished 9-8 on the year, marking head coach Mike Tomlin's 16th straight .500-or-better season. However, their winning season did not materialize into a playoff berth. The team tied with the Miami Dolphins for the final AFC Wild Card spot but missed out on it due to a head-to-head tiebreaker that Miami owned.

Take a look at the top images of the 49ers Faithful, the Gold Mine Supporter Section, the Terrell Owens Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and more from the 49ers home opener at Levi's® Stadium.

Key Offseason Additions

Drafted Players

  • OT Broderick Jones
  • CB Joey Porter Jr.
  • DL Keeanu Benton
  • TE Darnell Washington
  • LB Nick Herbig
  • DB Cory Trice Jr.
  • OL Spencer Anderson

Acquired and Retained Free Agents

  • DT Breiden Fehoko
  • S Keanu Neal
  • T Le'Raven Clark
  • TE Zach Gentry
  • G Isaac Seumalo
  • LB Elandon Roberts
  • LB Cole Holcomb
  • DT Larry Ogunjobi
  • S Damontae Kazee
  • G Nate Herbig
  • CB Patrick Peterson

Coaching Changes and Promotions

  • Defensive quality control coach: Jason Brooks
  • Outside linebackers coach: Denzel Martin
  • Linebackers coach: Aaron Curry
  • Offensive assistant coach: Glenn Thomas

Hear From the Other Side

Get an insider's perspective as team reporter Missi Matthews answered some questions regarding the club's offseason moves.

How would you assess the start of the Omar Khan/Andy Weidl era now that the duo has gone through an entire year together, specifically this most recent free agency, draft and early portion of free agency?

It has now been more than a full calendar year since Omar Khan and Andy Weidl have taken over as the Steelers GM and Assistant GM. They have received high praise following their first free agency and NFL Draft together for being aggressive by bringing in outside competition and not being afraid to make moves in the draft. It's also worth noting, one of the first things they accomplished last summer was signing All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a new five-year contract just after the offseason program wrapped up. This summer, Alex Highsmith appears to be next in line to get a new deal.

Which player(s) was/were the most critical free agent signing for the Steelers?

It's hard to pick just one player from the crop of free agents the Steelers brought in this offseason. I think bringing in a veteran like Patrick Peterson was intriguing when it happened during the legal tampering period, but even more so after the draft. It's very noticeable how excited the future Hall of Famer is to be playing for head coach Mike Tomlin and is okay with the idea of possibly moving around the secondary. Even more so, he's happy to be a mentor to a young room, including two draft picks Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice.

The team made several moves to the offensive line as well and guard Isaac Seumalo is a big addition. Also, the inside linebackers room (players and coach) has been completely revamped, thanks to the additions of Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb in free agency.

What are your early impressions of the 2023 rookie class? Any early standouts during OTAs?

You would think following up the 2022 rookie class with a first-round quarterback would be hard, but 2023 is full of excitement. The two cornerbacks I mentioned earlier have a lot of eyeballs on them. Patrick Peterson told the media that Coach Tomlin likes to call them "Avatar Cornerbacks" because they've been hard to miss. I had a chance to sit down with defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi before players dispersed and he told me that rookie Keeanu Benton will surprise a lot of people come training camp.

The AFC North is stacked with talented teams, after closing out the year at 9-8 and fortifying the roster this offseason, what are the expectations for Pittsburgh in 2023?

The biggest thing will be what Kenny Pickett does in his second year in the league and first full season as the starting quarterback. Pickett and the offense started to gel following the team's Bye week in 2022, but the second half momentum wasn't enough to get them into the postseason. The offense has to continue to build and get better and simply score more points. Having a healthy T.J. Watt doesn't hurt either in terms of the defense. The Steelers goal every season is to win another Lombardi Trophy and that expectation will never change.

The Steelers and 49ers will meet for the first time in four years to open up the season. What is your impression of this 2023 edition of the Niners?

Watch out! San Francisco's roster is (still) stacked and even added a familiar name for Steelers fans in Javon Hargrave. But what will happen at QB? Will Brock Purdy be the starter when the 49ers travel to Pittsburgh? Either way, it seems the team is poised to play some postseason football again in 2023.

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