49ers’ Super Bowl Hopes Crushed: Upset Loss in Conference Championship Stings

49ers’ Super Bowl Hopes Crushed: Upset Loss in Conference Championship Stings


PITTSBURGH (AP) – So much for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ perfect preseason and the boundless optimism that came with it.They both disappeared during Sunday’s 30-7 loss to San Francisco.

Freewheel receivers got a cover in August. The ocean of time that quarterback Kenny Pickett had to throw in training camp was nothing but a puddle.

That is, if it existed at all on the day Pickett was kicked five times and countless others were crushed.”I think San Fran’s defense is a little better than some teams we’ve played in the preseason,” Pickett said. “They’re a good team. But at the end of the day, we didn’t come close to the level we need or want. There’s a lot of improvement.”There is enough work.

Pike completed 31 of 46 passes for 232 yards and two interceptions. His accuracy was spotty at best. He threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth that briefly gave the Steelers the lead late in the first half. He also swished a few passes that got into the hands of defenders with a white “SF” emblazoned on his helmet.Perhaps most concerning was the absolute inability to produce anything while the game was still in hand.

The Steelers either punted or turned the ball over on each of their first five possessions, but failed to secure any first downs in the process, while the 49ers built a 20-point lead.- Offensively, we played so well in training camp and the preseason, and then we come out and don’t play well, center Mason Cole said.

“It’s a bit disappointing, but there’s no one to blame but ourselves.”Enough blaming. When outside linebacker T.J. Watt looked as good as ever as he had three sacks, tying James Harrison’s franchise record of 80 1/2. The Steelers also allowed San Francisco star Christian McCaffrey to accumulate 152 yards rushing, 65 of which came on the second sprint down the sideline. in the second half that really put the game out of reach.The 49ers held the ball for over 37 minutes, outgained the Steelers 391-239 and seemed to do anything against the NFL’s highest paid defense ever.

“You looked at the preseason, we were able to start fast in all three phases of the game and that really wasn’t the case today,” Watt said.No, it wasn’t.Pittsburgh lost defensive tackle Cam Heyward to a groin injury early and defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal to an elbow injury soon after.

Their absence disrupted the carefully planned rotation that the coaching staff arranged to keep the players fresh.Instead, the Steelers were worn down at times. San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy went 19-of-29 for a pair of touchdowns to Brandon Aiyuki and veteran defensive end Patrick Peterson. Peterson predicted at least one interception against Purdy.

Although he dropped a few passes, he also couldn’t stop Aiyuki from landing the ball in the end zone.”We can’t hit the panic button yet, it’s Week 1,” Peterson said. “We know what we need to clean up on the defensive side of the ball and hopefully we’ll be better in the next round.”There’s nowhere to go but up.The Steelers are counting on Pickett to make the jump after a solid finish to his rookie season last winter. He certainly looked ready in the preseason when he led the first-team offense to five touchdowns on as many carries.Pickett insisted he felt “comfortable” despite facing one of the NFL’s best rushes. Maybe, but he didn’t seem comfortable giving up passes made with summer ease.Summer is over.

Now things are important. And the 49ers drafted every team the Steelers would face over the next four months. Get out of the front early. stop running And dare Pickett to slap you.That’s certainly what Cleveland will try to do when the Browns (1-0) visit Acrisure Stadium on Monday, Sept. 18.It’s early, yes.

And the Steelers somehow stormed from a 2-6 start a season ago to finish 9-8 and flirt with a playoff spot.Just flirting with the postseason isn’t enough in 2023. There’s still a long way to go. But a team that thought it a year ago looked ordinary at best. That needs to change quickly or Pittsburgh could find itself in a hole that could be tough to climb out of in the league’s toughest division.”We’ll put this behind us,” Pickett said. “We have to learn from mistakes (and) do our best next week.”.

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