Brock Purdy left Heinz Field with a bounce in his step, flexing and howling a “Let’s go!” to San Francisco fans on hand after the 49ers thoroughly dismantled what’s expected to be a playoff contender, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-7 in the season opener for both teams.
The 23-point victory was the worst home loss for Pittsburgh under Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and the worst home loss for Pittsburgh since 2006.
Six months to the day after major elbow surgery to repair a torn UCL ligament in his right, throwing arm, last year’s final pick in the 2022 draft for San Francisco played at the same elite level he surprisingly performed at during his rookie season.
The Iowa State product finished 19 of 29 (65.5 percent) for 220 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for another 20 yards on the ground. Purdy was sacked three times, finishing with a 111.7 passer rating.
Purdy’s favorite target was Brandon Aiyuk, who finished with eight receptions for a career-high 129 yards and two scores. He made NFL history, becoming the first quarterback to win his first six regular-season starts while throwing at least two touchdowns in each game.
Purdy hit Aiyuk for an 8-yard touchdown on the opening drive and had San Francisco’s offense purring the rest of the way.
“This is what we are supposed to do,” Purdy said about his team’s performance. “This is what we expect out of ourselves. Once I hit that touchdown, I wasn’t thinking surgery or anything like that. I was thinking we are here to win. This is how we’re going to play, and that’s where I was at mentally.”
His head coach agreed.
“I thought Brock had a good game,” added Kyle Shanahan. “He made some good plays. He got some explosives there in some tight windows. We had some issues with protection, but we knew that going in. Fortunately, he held onto it and didn’t turn it over. But I thought Brock had a hell of a game.”
Purdy had plenty of help from the rest of his team. Running back Christian McCaffrey finished with 152 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“It was awesome blocking by the guys up front,” McCaffrey said. “The whole run game is an 11-man job. And they made great blocks.”
San Francisco, which had the No. 1-ranked defense in the league last season, played in much the same manner, holding a promising Pittsburgh offense to just seven points on their home field and starting the game with five straight, three-and-outs.
Drake Jackson led San Francisco with three sacks. The USC product had just three sacks his entire rookie season last year.
Rookie kick Jake Moody also had a strong performance after an up-and-down preseason, finishing 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 41 yards and making all of his extra points.
Considered a Super Bowl contender after reaching the NFC championship game in three of the past four seasons, the 49ers looked like one of the heavyweights in the NFL with a convincing road victory at Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s exactly how we wanted to come out,” said linebacker Fred Warner, who finished with eight combined tackles. “There was an emphasis because of past seasons with slow starts where we knew that we had to come out and set the tone right from the start.
“Offense, defense and special teams we did exactly what we wanted to do and executed.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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