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Meat-Eater Match Up: Steelers-49ers, Week 1

I've been sweating it out, waiting to hear whether or not Nick Bosa and the 49ers would come to a deal in time for the game this Sunday at Acrisure. Much like a couple years ago, when TJ Watt conducted a "hold-in," rather than a hold-out, it came down to the wire, but Nick Bosa is signed and ready to go.

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan left no doubt Bosa will suit up Week 1, joking that Bosa would "have to have a beer belly and be out of shape" to miss the opener. Don't expect either. Just as Watt came ready to play after he signed his new contract, so will Bosa.

This week's "Classic Jurrasic Meat-Eater Matchup" pits both offensive tackles, Dan Moore and Chuks Okorafor, against the 6-foot-4, 266-pound, 5th year pro, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Bosa.

The best way to quantify Bosa's importance to the San Fran franchise is much like TJ Watt. With Bosa in the lineup, they are 37-14. Without Bosa in the lineup, they are 5-10. Bosa represented 42 percent of the 2022 San Francisco sack total.

Bosa has the suddenness of a sneeze. When he gets into his heavily leaning forward track/sprinter stance, his weight is primarily on his forward hand, and he's dialed into the snap with his opposite hand reared back to help "launch" on the snap count.

Coaches talk about a player's "motor." Bosa has a Hemi engine under the hood. He's as relentless as an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator.

Bosa is strong enough to put his "grille in your grille," stuff a 300-plus pound offensive tackle at the point of attack, set the edge and is cat-quick enough to blow by a half-hearted cutoff block on the backside to wreak ball-hawking havoc, tackles for loss and, of course, go quarterback hunting. Bosa has totaled 34 sacks, 40 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles over the last two years.

Bosa is a classic "speed-to-power" rusher in the likeness of former Steelers Hall of Famer, Kevin Greene, sans the golden locks. Bosa will rush up the field, trying to get the OT to turn towards the sidelines and get his feet parallel. Then, at or about the third step up the field, Bosa will suddenly veer into the OT, either trapping with his hands to knock down the OT's hands, land a two-hand "punch" to the chest plate to gain inside hand position and dominate his opponent's centerline, or stabbing the inside shoulder of the OT with a straight arm and leveraging him with the inside hand power rush.

Bosa will throw in an occasional Alex Highsmith-worthy spin move, or simply go for the hand swipe to the inside move, if either Chuks or Dan over-set. And if all that wasn't enough, Bosa has the speed to run the arc and back door the QB.

If Bosa can catch an OT with his feet together on an up field rush, the OT will have, at that point, little knee bend, hips high and no power base. The leverage is all with Bosa. Think of him as a more forward-leaning James Harrison by comparison. Bosa has a heavier forward lean at the contact point with the OT than Harrison when QB hunting, but James could rush more upright because of his shorter height and his incredible strength.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 1 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers

Bosa will travel to both sides, testing Okorafor and Moore. Bosa has even lined up as a 3-technique inside, on the outside shoulder of the guard on occasion. Of Bosa's league-leading 18.5 sacks last year, 12 were rushing against the left tackle.

One of the advantages to playing such a pass rusher at home is the crowd noise or lack of it. Kenny Pickett can help his tackles, by using the snap count as a weapon. Bosa is twitchy and explosive as a stick of dynamite, but without virtually any live-go in preseason, he's sure to be amped and fired up. Altering the snap count, occasionally chipping with a back or TE delay, moving the wall towards him and screening off him are just a few of the tools available to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who's sure to be cooking something special to cool his jets a little.

Personally, I think one of the amazing prospects of this game is the rare opportunity to see two apex predators (Bosa and Watt), at the top of their respective food chains and battling it out on a Sunday afternoon.

Hear me now and believe me later, I can't wait for kickoff.

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