No. 1: Pittsburgh Steelers
If there was ever a time for the 49ers to start a season strong, it’s in 2023. They parted ways with Jimmy Garoppolo, they invested in Brock Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold as the leaders, have a new defensive coordinator, and are coming off a remarkable run to the NFC Championship.
The problem is, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t going to roll over and let San Francisco take the victory in Week 1. They want to get a hot start as well, especially being in a division with the Bengals and Ravens who are both poised to be playoff contenders once again.
The Steelers finished the 2022 campaign at 9-8. Their record would’ve won them the NFC South and tied them with the Jaguars for the AFC South. Had their season gone better, they could’ve potentially been in a Wild Card spot, as they finished out the year on a four-game win streak, while the Ravens lost their final two matches.
But this game will certainly be focused on the Niners' mental side. They've been though a lot since the beginning of the NFC Championship. Can they use the offseason as motivation? Are they actually able to win without Garoppolo as a locker-room presence? Does head coach Kyle Shanahan finally have the quarterback(s) he needs to have the offense succeed?
Many of these questions will be answered in Week 1.