The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up for a Super Bowl run, and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa ended his holdout just four days before the season-opening game against the host Pittsburgh Steelers.
Having Bosa on the field Sunday against the Steelers is a welcome bonus after 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan accepted last weekend that the star defensive end wouldn’t be with the team.
But after Bosa agreed to a reported five-year, $170 million deal, a record for a defensive player, Shanahan was preparing to have the leader of the NFL’s top defense on the field as much as possible Sunday.
“I know Nick will come in shape. I know he’ll be good,” Shanahan said Wednesday after confirming a deal had been worked out. “We’ll be smart with it and that will be based on the next 2 1/2 practices.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was counting all along on Bosa reporting.
“It is prudent for us to assume that he’s going to be there and prepare in that vein as opposed to being surprised,” Tomlin said Tuesday.
Having the Bosa impasse behind them is a welcome development for the 49ers (13-4 in 2022), who have been to the NFC Championship Game three times over the past four seasons, including a Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2019 season.
Pressure is building on the organization to get over the hump, and having the player who posted a league-high 18.5 sacks last season will be a major help.
San Francisco won 13 regular-season games last season for the second time in four campaigns, but the franchise hasn’t won a Super Bowl crown since the 1994 season.
Due to the NFL salary cap, there is a fear that the championship window is closing.
“Super Bowl is at the top of everybody’s priority list right now,” veteran left tackle Trent Williams said. “Worrying about when the window closes really does nothing for us right now. It’s like worrying about when you’re going to die. It is going to close eventually, but what’s the point of looking forward to it?”
Quarterback Brock Purdy will try to follow up his stunning second half of the 2022 season as he went from Mr. Irrelevant as the last player picked in the draft to starting the NFC title game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Purdy suffered a serious elbow injury during the loss to the Eagles and underwent major surgery before making a speedy recovery.
The Steelers (9-8) also have a second-year quarterback, Kenny Pickett, who started 12 games last season. After throwing eight interceptions in his first five appearances (four starts), Pickett was intercepted just once the rest of the season.
However, Pickett threw just seven touchdown passes in 389 attempts. He maintains that he isn’t feeling any pressure.
“I’m not looking to prove anything,” Pickett said. “I’m looking to go out there and find a way to win. This will be a battle for four quarters. That’s what we’re expecting. Go in there, bring my best and be ready for a four-quarter battle.”
The Pittsburgh defense led by linebacker T.J. Watt (77.5 career sacks) will look to build on last season’s success. The Steelers allowed 18 or fewer points on 11 occasions.
Pittsburgh defensive tackles Cameron Heyward (not injury related) and Larry Ogunjobi (foot) were limited practice participants on Wednesday.
For the 49ers, star tight end George Kittle (groin) was one of seven limited participants. The others were safeties Talanoa Hufanga (knee) and Tashaun Gipson (general soreness), linebacker Oren Burks (knee), running back Jordan Mason (foot), receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (wrist) and kicker Jake Moody (quadriceps).
San Francisco leads the series 12-10. The 49ers won the last meeting, 24-20 at home in 2019.
–Field Level Media