In preparation for tonight’s showdown between the Steelers and 49ers, Niner Noise asked the Steelers fan web site Nice Pick, Cower some questions about the game. The editor of the web site Craig Gottschalk answered the questions below and you can check out their web site for our answers. Go 49ers, and enjoy!
Q. Niner fans have been monitoring Ben Roethlisberger’s injury all week and it looks like he is a go. With him having been limited in practice the past week, how confident are Steeler fans in him being effective and able to lead the offense down the field?
I think most Steelers fans would love to see Ben take the field - especially since this game just got a whole lot bigger with the Ravens losing last night. There's no doubt that most are worried to see how effective he is, since the strongest part of his game - extending plays - may not be there. I think as long as the o-line gives him that little bit of added protection he needs to get rid of the ball, he will be very effective in connecting with his receivers. That said, the Niners certainly have the advantage of not needing to put a man or two on Ben should he decide to scramble.
Q. How big of an impact will there be on defense with linebacker James Harrison suspended? Who is starting in Harrison’s place and can he make up his lost production?
Jason Worlids will take the start. Lawrence Timmons will move to the outside, and Worlids will start in Timmons' inside slot. Harrison was out for four weeks earlier in the season and the Steelers won all four of those games. I have confidence that with LaMarr Woodely back on the other side, the defense will be just fine without Harrison. Worlids is progressing very well as a young LB and should be able to contribute tonight.
Q. The 49ers defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher or a rushing touchdown all season. Can the Steelers running game led by Rashard Mendenhall break both of those streaks?
No. There's really nothing more to say to this. I've been a Mendenhall hater all season - and rightfully so. He is not producing the way he was last year. A complete drop off. Not in a Chris Johnson kind of way, but enough to piss off a bunch of Steelers Nation. I think the combo of Mendenhall and Redman will net over 100 yards - but not by Mendenhall alone.
Q. The Steelers and 49ers have two of the best defenses currently in the NFL. Who do you think has the better defense and why?
I think the 49'ers win for 'Most Improved Defense' from last season. Mediocre numbers for most aspects of the defense and they rank now in the top five of pretty much every category. That's nothing to ignore. However, I still feel that the Steelers have the best defense. They actually improved their pass defense to one of the best in the league. Their rushing defense was atrocious in the beginning of the season, but has improved vastly the past 4-5 weeks. They've become stubborn again. The Niners secondary is wicked with 18 picks so far this season. But I think LeBeau is a better schemer, Polamalu is always the X factor (I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing that) and when the defense is poised - look out. They were able to stop Brady - and that says a lot since he's had a habit of torching this defense....
Q. Which Steelers players should the 49ers watch out for on offense and defense that could cause havoc in the game?
Antonio Brown is becoming the guy riding the coat tails of Mike Wallace. With Wallace getting most of the attention, Brown reaps the benefits of single coverage’s and porous zones. The Niners will need to find a way to stop him - he's fast and has very good hands and is quickly becoming more and more of a favorite target for Big Ben.
LaMarr Woodley, I have a strange feeling, will be extra intense tonight. He was on a sack tear prior to his hamstring injury. He only played one quarter during his first game back. As long as he's 100%, he's going to be explosive off the ball and his crosshairs will be set on Smith all game long. I hope that the Niners find ways for Gore or another back to pick up his blitzing, especially in the Red Zone or a sack could be the difference in a field goal or punt.
Prediction for the game:
Well I proclaim that the Steelers will win. I also predict that it will be a score of 24-13. The Steelers offense will find ways tonight to keep moving downfield, while the defense will keep Smith at bay for most of the evening. I actually think that the lone TD for the Niners will come from special teams with Ted Ginn running back a kickoff for 6.