Purdy, Aiyuk shine as 49ers steamroll Steelers on the road

Sep 10, 2023, 2:50 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts with teammates after a touchdown in the first q...

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Week 1’s clash with the Steelers couldn’t have gone better for the 49ers, dominating in every fashion Sunday afternoon.

The San Francisco 49ers got off to a hot start to their 2023 campaign, thrashing the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-7, on the road. For a team that traditionally starts slow, the Red & Gold made a big statement Sunday.

And it started on their opening drive of offense with quarterback Brock Purdy.

Purdy & the offense were clicking from the jump, going on a drive to start the game. The young gunslinger was effective in his throws, hitting all of his weapons on the opening drive. And thanks to the help of running back Christian McCaffrey on the ground, the 49ers found themselves in the redzone in a hurry.

A few plays later, Purdy found wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the endzone for an eight-yard score.

7-0 49ers on a drive that last less than four minutes.

That became a theme for the game, with the 49ers’ defense doing their part to keep the offense on the field. In fact, Pittsburgh and QB Kenny Pickett didn’t get their first first down until the end of the first half.

Because of that, the Purdy & Co. cooked in the first half, getting points on their first four drives.

SF’s second TD of the game came on the third drive, with Purdy hitting Aiyuk in the endzone again. That drive was set up in nine plays, moving the sticks with short and intimidate routes before putting the 49ers at the Steelers’ 19-yard-line.

With more than 13 minutes left in the half, Purdy looks right to a streaking Aiyuk, lobbing the ball to his back shoulder at the corner of the endzone. Making the necessary adjustment to the ball, “BA” made the catch with his body, as cornerback Patrick Peterson was draped all over him.

Aiyuk’s second TD score of the day makes it 17 to nothing, in favor of the visitors.

At the same time, the 49ers’ defense remained relentless, forcing Pickett into uncomfortable situations throughout the first half. Additionally, the Steelers’ run game was working, only registering nine carries on the day.

By the end of half No.1, Pittsburgh’s first five drives had either been a three & out, or an interception (1). While the 49ers expected to their defense to continue its terror from a year ago, even they were surprised by the command they had on the contest.

“No but they didn’t move the chains, we got them on three-&-outs,” coach Kyle Shanahan stated postgame Sunday. “It took them a little bit to get going and we were able to answer, so we were able to jump [the game].

To his point, the home team did scored a TD on their final possession of the first half, hitting tight end Pat Freiermuth for three-yard score.

That fourth-down conversion made the score 20-7 at halftime.

But the momentum didn’t last long. Getting the ball back to open the second half, the 49ers only needed two plays to retake command of the game.

Handing the ball off to McCaffrey, the All-Pro squeezed between tackles to his left, finding the open space to run. And thanks to a great blocks from Aiyuk and WR Ray-Ray McCloud, CMC got loose down left sideline, weaving his way to the endzone for six.

A 65-yard run on the second play of the half. 27-7 is the new score, and this game is pretty much over.

The 49ers didn’t need to do much thereafter, maintaining the lead with a run-heavy attack on offense. Defensively, they just kept doing their thing, forcing two turnover on downs and one more interception by Pickett. Additionally, kicker Jake Moody helped extend the lead, making all there of his field goals Sunday to push the lead to 30-7.

And that’s the game.

San Francisco had numerous standouts in week 1, none bigger than Aiyuk, catching eight passes for 129 receiving yards and two TDs. McCaffrey finished with 22 carries for 152 rushing yards and a score. Purdy also had a good day, ending up with 220 yards passing and two TDs to his name.

On defense, the 49ers’ defensive line showed out, recording five sacks on the day. Second-year DE Drake Jackson had three of those, making his presence known to the Steelers. Newcomer DT Javon Hargrave also got his first sack as a 49er, showing his impact right away.

All in all, this was a massive win for San Francisco. After an offseason of drama, Week 1’s beatdown on the road has silenced many of the doubters, including the Brock Purdy haters.

“Purdy shut some haters up…It’s nice to be on a good team,” DE Nick Bosa stated Sunday.

Only six months removed from elbow surgery, Purdy looks back to normal, wheeling & dealing through the game. And while it’s only Week 1, the vibes are certainly high heading back home.

“Everything was sort of clicking, [the] defense did their thing, [offense] put a drive together. And to cap it off like that, to start the season off, I was like ‘yeah, this is gonna be good,'” Purdy said with a smile.

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