No. 3: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
Given where Jimmy Garoppolo was, in terms of numbers at the end of the first quarter, his inclusion here might be somewhat surprising.
The 49ers started off poorly, with Garoppolo throwing two interceptions, both of which bounced off his receiver’s hands, to end two of the first three offensive drives, leading to the team finding itself behind 6-0.
Yet in spite constant pressure and three fumbles (one was on Garoppolo, who mishandled the center exchange) from other members of the offense, Garoppolo played what might have been his most impressive game as a pro.
His quick release and better-than-expected pass blocking from his offensive line saw that the quarterback was only sacked once, even with the Steelers defensive line, especially edge rusher T.J. Watt, wrecking havoc throughout the game.
His final numbers looked decent: 23-of-32 for 277 yards, one touchdown and those two picks. But more importantly, he passed the eye test, looking unfazed by the pressure, standing in the pocket and making all the throws he needed to.
Garoppolo’s most impressive moment actually came on a missed opportunity on the Niners’ second drive of the third quarter, where head coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up a long pass to rookie wideout Deebo Samuel. The offensive line gave Garoppolo plenty of time, and he unleashed an on-target throw down field, which Samuel had in his hands, only to see it become dislodged as he went to the ground.
The Niners defense seems to have improved enough that the offense won’t required to be perfect to win. And while Garoppolo was far from perfection on Sunday, he was up to the task when called upon, and showed the proper aggressiveness and movement in the pocket to get the job done.