49ers 24, Steelers 20: Studs and duds from fourth-quarter comeback

Cam Inman, The Mercury News on

Published in Football

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Four turnovers on their first five series was a horrendous way for the 49ers to launch their home opener Sunday.

Surrendering a fourth-quarter lead and then committing a fifth turnover had the 49ers all set to blow their undefeated start to the season.

Then came a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Dante Pettis with 1:15 remaining, and the 49ers escaped with a 24-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 49ers are 3-0 for the first time since 1998. Garoppolo is 4-0 as a Levi's Stadium starter. The bye week is next, and the 49ers are back on the NFL map.

Much of the credit should go to a 49ers defense that touts a highly impressive pass rush, as evidenced by DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead day-long harrasment of Steelers first-time starting quarterback Mason Rudolph.

All four of those pass rushers got to Rudolph on the final third-down play of the game, ending with Buckner forcing a fumble. Once Rudolph had an ensuing fourth-down throw go incomplete, the 3-0 celebration was on in arguably the most important win in Levi's Stadium's six-year history.


Here are the 49ers' studs and duds thus far:


--Fullback Kyle Juszczyk: He's been the 49ers' best receiver and best lead blocker. He helped open up an alley for Jeff Wilson to run through on a third-and-goal, 1-yard touchdown run that gave the 49ers a 10-6 lead 2:43 after halftime. Juszczyk took it to the 1 on a 2-yard catch, and he earlier made 27- and 22-yard receptions with determination and grit. On the 27-yarder at the Steelers' 28-yard line, it looked like he wasn't touched and could have raced to the end zone. His lead blocks opened holes for Breida on positive runs to start their first two series.

--Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner: He's the equalizer, heroically coming through after many a turnover by the 49ers offense. Buckner recovered a Steelers fumble at the 24-yard line with 5:29 remaining, offsetting Richie James' fumble three snaps earlier at the 7-yard line. Arik Armstead forced the fumble Buckner recovered. Buckner was an all-game factor, starting with back-to-back tackles to mimize the Steelers second scoring drive, including a third-down tackle of Mason Rudolph for a 1-yard gain that forced a field goal (and 6-0 deficit). Buckner made another third-down tackle, with Ronald Blair, to stop Randolph for a 1-yard gain and force a punt after 49ers turnover No. 4.


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