Game Preview: 5 Things to Watch When 49ers Visit Steelers

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A 20-3 win on "Monday Night Football" against the Minnesota Vikings got the San Francisco 49ers off on the right foot in 2015.

Now the 49ers hit the road for the first time this season and fly across the country for a Week 2 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Mike Tomlin-led Steelers dropped their first contest to the New England Patriots, 28-21, in the kick-off game to the NFL season.

Come Sunday, it will have been 10 days since Pittsburgh last played. The Steelers will look to take advantage of a long week and get their first win of the season.

San Francisco owns an 11-9 advantage in the all-time series. The 49ers also won the last meeting between the two teams, 20-3, at Candlestick Park in 2011. Notable Stats on the horizon

  • A win would give the 49ers their first 2-0 start since 2012.
  • A 49ers win would also make Jim Tomsula just the second head coach in franchise history to start his head-coaching career 3-0. The other? George Seifert in 1989. Tomsula's first win came in the 2010 season finale, when he led San Francisco to a 38-7 victory vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
  • Anquan Boldin (944 career receptions) needs eight catches against the Steelers to pass Andre Reed (951 career receptions) and move into 13th all-time on the NFL's all-time receptions leaderboard.
  • A sack for Aaron Lynch would give him eight in his last 12 contests.

5 Things to watch

1. A homecoming for Tomsula

It isn't the focus for the 49ers, but it's still a storyline for everyone else. Tomsula grew up in Homestead, Pa., just eight miles from Heinz Field. The 49ers head coach joked that as a kid, he and his buddies would sneak into Steelers games at the team's old home Three Rivers Stadium.

Childhood stories aside, this is strictly a business trip for Tomsula and his team. The 49ers head coach said as much on Friday when asked about the opportunity to return to his home state.

Tomsula will have plenty of family in attendance on Sunday, but his wife and East Coast family members are handling all those arrangements.

"That's where my lack of cell phones and internets and all that stuff is good for me. I really haven't done anything," Tomsula joked. "They figure it out and handle it, which I'm grateful to. I've never done tickets. I don't know how you can do that. I don't know how guys do that.

"If they don't have a helmet on, I'm not paying much attention to it."

2. Antonio Brown vs. the 49ers secondary

The Steelers talented wideout is currently on an unprecedented streak: 34 consecutive games with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards. That's ridiculous. 

Odds are that streak will continue on Sunday against the 49ers given his volume of targets. Additionally, Brown becomes even more of a focal point for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense with Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant missing the game due to suspensions. What's important for the 49ers defensive backs is to keep Brown in front of them and limit his yards after the catch.

3. An encore for Hyde

Pierre Garçon's 168-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 1 will be hard to top. That said, he will be fed the rock again with Reggie Bush missing the game due to a calf strain.

The Steelers rush defense was stout in Week 1, limiting the Patriots to 80 yards on the ground and 3.3 yards per carry. That won't stop the 49ers offense from trying to establish a successful rushing attack for a second consecutive week.

All of the Faithful - and plenty of fantasy football owners - will be anxious to see what Hyde has in store for the Steelers.

4. A continued rhythm for the passing game

Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers passing attack found its stride in the second half against the Vikings. The offense will look to continue that success through the air against a Steelers secondary that got picked apart by Tom Brady in Week 1. 

Brady completed 25-of-32 passes for 288 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 143.8. Three of those scores went to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Vernon Davis can pose a similar matchup problem for a secondary, and it's a safe bet that he'll be a significant part of the team's gameplan on Sunday.

5. Get to the quarterback

Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini seemed to push all the right buttons in his first game calling plays for the 49ers defense. San Francisco registered five sacks, all from different players, and eight total hits on Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The 49ers pass rush set the tone of the game and helped dictate what Minnesota could do offensively.

Pittsburgh allowed three sacks against the Patriots and Roethlisberger was hit five times in all. The 49ers will look to duplicate their Week 1 pass-rushing performance and assist the secondary while they chase Brown all over the field.

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