SANTA CLARA — If the 49ers beat the Steelers, we’ll know the 49ers are a good team, maybe a playoff team. If they lose to the Steelers, we’ll know the 49ers haven’t arrived yet.
The 49ers’ record is 2-0, but they haven’t beaten a good team. They’ve beaten the Buccaneers and Bengals, two perennial losers.
The Steelers’ record is 0-2, they’re 6½-point underdogs and they don’t have their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. He’s out for the year with an elbow injury.
But the Steelers have played two perennial winners — the Patriots and Seahawks. No shame in losing to them. And the Steelers’ offense played better after Roethlisberger injured himself last week — he looked like he was in serious pain.
And the Steelers haven’t had a losing season since 2003. They’re one of the toughest, most consistent teams in the NFL, and they’re not rebuilding. In fact, they just traded their first-round draft pick in 2020 for free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. They expect to win. They won’t beat themselves like the Bucs did Week 1, or quit at halftime like the Bengals did last week.
“We’ve got to come out just as hungry as Pittsburgh,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “I know it’s going to be an extremely hard, physical game.”
Here are the five biggest challenges the 49ers will face against the Steelers.