Former Pittsburgh Steelers CB Bryant McFadden made an appearance on CBS Sports HQ to talk about the Week 1 schedule to kick off the 2023 regular season and specific storylines he is looking in anticipation of the regular season getting underway come September.
McFadden directed his attention to his former team and the daunting task the Steelers will have on their hands when they face off against the San Francisco 49ers September 10 in Pittsburgh.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 1 at home, you get a legit playoff contender,” McFadden said on CBS Sports which aired on the show’s YouTube channel. “You get a team with championship aspirations. So, this is a huge test for Kenny Pickett, Mike Tomlin, and this new regime of Steeler players on their team to really be able to showcase what they can do on a national stage against a national contender.”
The 49ers are one of the few powerhouse team in the NFL Conference, boasting a vaunted defense that has the likes of Nick Bosa and Fred Warner running around causing havoc on opposing offenses. For a young QB like Kenny Pickett and a revamped offensive line, San Francisco’s pass rush could prove to be a big test right out the gate with Bosa being joined with former Steeler Javon Hargrave as well as Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Javon Kinlaw, and Clelin Ferrell.
On offense, the 49ers have one of the most talented and versatile skill position groups in the league with Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings. Trent Williams captains a strong offensive line, and while the QB position is currently up in the air with Brock Purdy recovering from injury and Trey Lance attempting to get back into the fold, HC Kyle Shanahan knows how to put both guys in-position to succeed.
While San Francisco may be legit Super Bowl contenders, McFadden dropped a stat that makes him think that Pittsburgh should be the favorites in this matchup against the NFC powerhouse.
“But I will say this, Mr. Jeremy, Mike Tomlin in Week 1 matchups going back to 2016, the last seven Week 1 matchups, he’s only suffered one loss,” McFadden continued. “That loss happened in 2019 by the hands of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots and at that time, Tom Brady. So, when you look at Mike Tomlin and the success he’s had during Week 1 matchups, man, and they will be getting points? I’m not saying this is a lock, but I’m saying it almost kind of feels like a lock.”
McFadden is right with his stat as Pittsburgh as either one or tie (2018 against Cleveland) every Week One matchup for the last seven years outside of the thrashing they took to the Patriots in 2019 when facing Brady, Belichick, and company up in Foxborough. While this may seem like an unlikely outcome against a 49ers squad that currently sits as three-point road favorites, all you have to do is look back the last two regular season openers to see Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati as well as the Buffalo Bills on the road in Buffalo. In both games, Pittsburgh was the heavy underdog against an AFC powerhouse, but they managed to grind out a victory against a championship caliber team.
Any given Sunday, you can have the best teams in the league get upset by an underdog. That’s why you play the games. No one really expected Pittsburgh to beat the Bengals or the Bills the last two years in the regular season opener, but they managed to do so. The same notion is there this season as San Francisco is the better team on paper, but somehow, Mike Tomlin always gets this team ready to play and they manage to play to the level of their competition. Soon enough, we will see if this is all of naught and the 49ers come in and wipe the floor with Pittsburgh at home, or if Pickett shows he’s ready to make a leap and that the revamped roster is ready to compete against the top teams in the league in hopes of returning to the playoffs.