The San Francisco 49ers are set to face the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since the 2019 season. Here's what both teams had to say ahead of the 2023 regular season opener.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan's scouting report on the Steelers defense:
"They play as hard as anyone. D-Line, their linebackers, their secondary - they all get after it. They're an extremely physical group. We haven't played them for a number of years, but just watching them, DT Cameron Heyward, watching LB T.J. Watt, S Minkah Fitzpatrick, those guys are as talented as it gets... It's very obvious why they won seven out of the last nine games. You watch the defensive side of the ball, and then you get into their offense, seeing some of the players they have, the way that quarterback's been playing and the way he played last year at the end of the year, it's been really impressive."
Shanahan on Bosa's snap count versus the Steelers:
"How many snaps are in the game? I'm just joking. We've got to see when he gets here... We'll be smart with it, and (snap count) will be based over these next two and a half practices."
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks on Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett's improvement:
"I think he's a little bit more comfortable in the offense and with what they ask him to do. He makes great decisions with the ball. Again, they have a solid run game, which I think really takes a lot of the pressure off of him having to constantly push the ball down the field and go win a game. They create a lot of balance in what they do. The play-action down the field has definitely been one of the differences, and it jumps out at you on tape. As for receivers, they have George Pickens and Diontae Johnson, who are outstanding."
Quarterback Brock Purdy on Pittsburgh's defense:
"They play really hard for four quarters. Last year, they got really hot as a team. They have this fire that they play with, and obviously, it starts with their front, their backers and their secondary. They're just well coached, and when you watch the film, there's just guys that pop out and it's like, 'Man, we've got to play four quarters really hard against this team.' It's going to be a tough opponent, and we respect them. They're going to be a team that brings it every single play. There are no plays off from really anyone on their defense."
Defensive lineman Javon Hargrave on his time with Mike Tomlin and the Steelers:
"That's how I learned about the league. He runs a good program over there. He taught me a lot and got my mindset ready for how the NFL is."
Hargrave on his season opener outlook:
"I know (Mike Tomlin) is motivating them like crazy, and I just laughed with my former teammate last week, Cam Heyward. I know how he comes in meetings, and he's going to have those boys ready."
"I'm sure everybody knows how he makes everybody's life easier, not just me. Being one of the most dominant defensive players in the league, in the run and pass game, he's the most complete player on the edge. That clears a lot of things up for me."
Tomlin on preparing for quarterback Brock Purdy:
"It is less specifically about Brock Purdy and is more about how Kyle Shanahan chooses to utilize his quarterback within the schematics of what it is that he does... We just see very similar things in terms of their approach to football. It's very quarterback friendly. It doesn't put them in a lot of adverse circumstances. It keeps them on schedule, and in doing so, it minimizes the potential for negativity. It's a great platform particularly for a young guy to play and gain experience. It's reflective of Purdy's journey a year ago and their collective journey a year ago. I imagine his growth and development in that experience has him and the team ready to take another step just like we are with our young quarterback."
Tomlin's scouting report on the offense:
"Starting on the offensive side of the ball, man, I think it just starts with Christian McCaffrey man. We've just got to respect the dynamic playmaking ability that he has both in the running game and in the passing game. It's very evident how significant his addition has been for them. I think prior to his addition, they were averaging 20 points a game, with him in 2022, they averaged 30 points a game. And so, 10 points with the addition of one man, he's dynamic in the run game, he's dynamic in the passing game, we better be really careful about being matched up against him in space. He's a one-on-one space winner. They have a lot of one-on-one space winners. He might be the most dynamic one-on-one space winner at running back in the NFL, George Kittle might be that at tight end, Deebo Samuel might be that at receiver. Their run after ability with their offensive eligibles is really impressive. And so, they can throw short and run long and produce big plays without absorbing a significant amount of risk. What does that mean for us? We better tackle well, we better be sound schematically in terms of some matchup related things, and not put people in bad circumstances athletically. It's a coach's challenge. It's just a fundamental technical player's challenge from a tackling standpoint."
Tomlin's scouting report on the defense:
"They were the most dynamic defense in the NFL a year ago. Their coordinator is now a head coach in Houston because of it. They've replaced him with another savvy veteran coordinator play caller in Steve Wilks, who shares some of the same philosophical approaches that DeMeco (Ryans) does in terms of how they wish to attack. They play behind a multiple, versatile, attacking four-man front. They play a lot of people. They give you some structures that are really challenging. They got some dynamic players within the group, Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave inside and Nick Bosa on the perimeter. Yes, we are preparing for Bosa. It's prudent for us to assume that he is going to be there and prepare in that vein, as opposed to being surprised... We expect him to be there, it's the prudent approach to take and if he's going to be there, we know the type of player that he intends on being."
Quarterback Kenny Pickett on Sunday's game plan:
"We're all expecting Nick Bosa to play. I'm sure they'll figure it out, get it done, and he'll be in the stadium on Sunday."
Pickett on the challenge of the many looks of San Francisco's defense:
"That's how everyone tries to dress things up. You want things to look the same, and then, it's different post-snap. They're really talented on both sides of the ball. They have great coaches and great players. It's going to be a challenge."
Cornerback Levi Wallace on opening up the season against San Francisco:
"They're great team obviously they went to the NFC Championship Game last year, so it's a good challenge out the gate. I think they're going to be pretty much healthy. This will be a good test for us earlier in the year."
Wallace on containing the offense:
"They have so many good athletes. We just have to tackle. They have some really good guys that after they get the ball in their hands, they're really good. They get down the field, and they can score. They're really explosive, so we have to do a good job at tackling."
Running back Najee Harris on facing the 49ers defense:
"If we want to be the team that we want to be, the team that we're capable of being, I think that this is no better test... Last year they were a pretty high-ranked defense. They have good players. Nick Bosa has his situation going on, but I feel confident he's going to be there. You've got Fred Warner, you've got a safety, you've got a whole good defensive front. They picked up Javon Hargrave. They have a good defense. There is no better competition than the 49ers."
Wide receiver George Pickens on game planning for Nick Bosa and his effect on the game:
"That's like if T.J. Watt is not playing or if he is - Bosa is great player. We already know that. We respect him, but we're not watching if he plays or if he doesn't play."