Countdown to kickoff: Steelers vs. 49ers

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015 Heinz Field 1 p.m. FOX-TV

SERIES HISTORY:49ers lead, 14-9, regular season (0-0 postseason).

LAST MEETING:49ers 20, Steelers 3, Dec. 19, 2011, Candlestick Park. The Steelers outgained the 49ers, 389-287, but turned the ball over four times and registered zero takeaways. QB Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted on the Steelers' first two possessions in a game that was repeatedly delayed by power outages. Roethlisberger ended up throwing three interceptions and also lost a fumble. The 49ers broke open a 6-3 game with second-half touchdowns from TE Vernon Davis (1-yard receiving) and RB Frank Gore (5-yards rushing).

LAST WEEK:The Steelers opened the NFL's season with a 28-21 loss on Sept. 10 at New England. The 49ers ended the NFL's opening weekend with a 20-3 home win over Minnesota in the second of two Monday Night Football encounters.


WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL:**San Francisco lined up with three tight ends on 37 of 65 offensive snaps against Minnesota. Often one of them would motion into the backfield and line up at fullback. There wasn't a lot of mystery as to what the 49ers were trying to establish: zone-left, zone-right and play-action passes off of their zone runs. RB Carlos Hyde wound up rumbling for 168 of San Francisco's 230 rushing yards and produced a pair of TDs on his 28 carries. The left side of the offensive line (LT Joe Staley, LG Alex Boone) is established and formidable.

QB Colin Kaepernick contributed 41 yards rushing and wasn't shy about vacating the pocket when his initial read or two didn't look promising. If one game is any indication, the 49ers aren't trying to make Kaepernick a traditional pocket passer under first-year head coach Jim Tomsula. They moved Kaepernick around and rolled him out repeatedly even when he wasn't running. The most recognizable names among Kaepernick's receiving options are Davis and WRs Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Davis and Boldin combined for seven receptions on 11 targets against Minnesota. Kaepernick completed 17 of 26 attempts but for just 165 yards.


WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL:**The 49ers were all about stopping the run and playing two safeties deep against the Vikings and it worked. RB Adrian Peterson was held to 31 yards on 10 carries and Minnesota's longest reception was 27 yards. The defensive line (DT Glenn Dorsey, NT Ian Williams and DT Quinton Dial) effectively freed up the linebackers to make plays. LB NaVorro Bowman had seven solo tackles and a sack in his first regular-season action since 2013.

The 49ers played some six-defensive backs packages that included No. 1 pick Arik Armstead as a pass rusher against the Vikings after featuring sub-packages with five DBs in the preseason. FS Jimmy Ward was the "nickel" (the fifth DB) and rookie SS Jaquiski Tartt the "dime" (the sixth DB) against Minnesota. CBs Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker aren't perceived as shut-down types around the league, which might explain the reliance upon deep safeties. FS Eric Reid (6-foot-1, 213) fits the big-physical-defense concept being featured in San Francisco.

Tartt and SS Antoine Bethea accounted for two of the 49ers' four sacks against the Vikings. The 49ers responded to no longer having an Aldon Smith-type natural pass rusher by scheming to generate pressure. They got exotic against Minnesota on passing downs.


Here is a look at each the statistical leaders for both the Steelers and 49ers heading into Sunday's week two matchup at Heinz Field.

SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS: **The 49ers suffered a blocked field goal and a muffed punt that was recovered by the Vikings and had an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by WR Bruce Ellington nullified by a penalty. Ellington had a kickoff return for a touchdown in the preseason finale against San Diego that counted. Australian rugby convert Jarryd Hayne muffed a punt that resulted in a Vikings recovery. No. 1 PK/KOR Reggie Bush was knocked out of the Minnesota game (calf).

Steelers K Josh Scobee missed field goal attempts of 44 and 46 yards at New England. The Steelers had one kickoff return for 22 yards and one punt return for 3 yards against the Patriots.

THE X-FACTOR:Can the Steelers contain Kaepernick? His escapes from the pocket can be as frustrating for a defense as they are critical to the 49ers' offense sustaining drives. He'll be on the move sooner or later, probably sooner rather than later. Can the Steelers attack him with discipline and minimize the damage he does on the ground?

THEY SAID IT:"If it's funny, laugh. If it's sad, cry. And if you're mad, let somebody know." _ Tomsula on a philosophy of life honed growing up in West Homestead, Pa.

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