Thursday, December 15, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview & Prediction
It is tough to say, but in some ways, the Week 15 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers is the San Francisco 49ers' biggest game of the 2011 NFL season.
There are several explanations for this. The game is being played on Monday Night Football with an entire nation watching a top 3 team in the AFC play a top 3 team in the NFC, and the 49ers are just coming off a loss to a determined Arizona Cardinals team.
More than anything, Monday's night's game on ESPN is a statement game for the 49ers. It is their chance to prove themselves to be one of the better teams in the NFL. After the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Ravens and a trap game loss in Arizona, that is not so certain anymore.
Monday night's test at home against the AFC powerhouse is the 49ers' chance to prove to NFL nation that they are a real contender in the NFC playoffs.
As for the game itself, the lack of James Harrison at linebacker and a hurting Ben Roethlisberger are not what Pittsburgh was hoping for, I'm sure. However, we can expect Roethlisberger to have that same in-game tenacity we have always seen out of him, although the plan of attack for the 49ers will be to get him to the ground early and often.
The 49ers are coming off a few straight games where offense has been a clear weakness. Alex Smith has done his best throughout the season, but it seems the more Harbaugh trusts the 2005 1st round draft pick the more he seems to fail under the circumstances. He has not been up to par as he has been this season.
Monday night, he will have to contend with one of the more experienced defenses in the NFL and an even more tenacious and experienced defensive coordinator in Dick LeBeau, who will be eager to blitz Smith heavily on the national stage.
Alex Smith is the clear x-factor in Monday night's game against the Steelers. Can Smith manage the game effectively?
We will see.
Like i said, LeBeau and the Steelers will be as blitz-heavy as any team Smith and the 49ers have seen this season. How the San Francisco offensive line and Smith react early will give us a clear indication of how prepared they were for Pittsburgh.
Being at home is a huge advantage for the 49ers and a loud fan base should come forward for Monday Night Football.
However, it is possible the Steelers' defense could be just a bit too much for a 49ers team struggling to convince many that they are legitimate. San Francisco must make a statement in this game against one of the AFC's elite, but LeBeau and the Pittsburgh defense should be able to take advantage of the weaker points of that 49ers offensive line on Monday. With that said, Smith and the 49ers' offense must take advantage of the absence of James Harrison, and i think they will.
49ers win 24-16