49ers

49ers move Reid to linebacker, noncommittal about his future

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USATSI

49ers move Reid to linebacker, noncommittal about his future

SANTA CLARA – Eric Reid sought an answer about his future with the 49ers.

But the 49ers did not tell him what he wanted to hear.

The 49ers need to see how things turn out over the final nine games of the season to figure out the organization’s preferred path for 2018 and beyond.

Reid, who started every game he appeared through his first four seasons at safety, is now a linebacker. Jaquiski Tartt is the 49ers’ present and, more than likely, future strong safety.

“By no means is anything final,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during a sit-down interview Thursday for “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.

“Eric has played in 2 ½ games for us this year. Tartt has played well in the games he’s played. We got a number of games left. I’m trying to figure out what our guys are, and what’s going to help our team the most and what we’re going to do, going forward. We don’t have all those answers, yet.”

The 49ers moved Reid to a role as a linebacker in passing situations last week against the Dallas Cowboys. This week, he moved full-time into his new position – a decision based on putting the team’s best 11 players on the field as well as adapting to the demands of defending a new breed of running backs and tight ends.

The 49ers face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, and Reid will likely see more action while making a contribution when it comes covering tight end Zach Ertz, who leads the team with 39 catches for 494 yards and five touchdowns.

“He’s taken a huge step forward this week, his second week at it and being more comfortable, knowing what to expect in games I’m excited to see him out there on Sunday,” Shanahan said of Reid.

The 49ers see Reid’s transition as a logical move for a team with two other starting-caliber safeties. The team also has a need at linebacker after losing Malcolm Smith to a season-ending pectoral injury in training camp and granting veteran NaVorro Bowman his release two weeks ago.

“What Eric Reid has done as a safety is unquestioned,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He is one of the better safeties in all of football. Tartt is a very good safety. Jimmie Ward is a very good safety. Eric Reid being a very physical player that he is, and being one of our smartest players, we as an organization felt like it wouldn’t be an issue for him to move a couple yards closer than he already was.”

As Reid was returning from a knee injury that kept him sidelined for three games he said he fully expected to regain his starting role upon his return. That did not happen. He is scheduled to be a free agent in March, and it goes to reason his spot in the 49ers’ defense for the remainder of this season will have a major impact on his value as a free agent.

“I asked them explicitly, ‘Can you at least tell me if I’m going to be here next year to play this position?’ ” Reid said. “They told me, ‘No.’ Coach Saleh said he doesn’t make those decisions. Right now, I just trust that the film I have at safety is good enough for me to enter free agency with and just get some film at linebacker as well.”

Reid’s move is not unprecedented. At nearly 220 pounds, he compares favorably to other similarly sized linebackers who have excelled for their teams, such as Telvin Smith (Jacksonville), Deone Bucannon (Arizona) and Mark Barron (Los Angeles Rams).

”Eric Reid has been put in a linebacker position, not because he can’t play safety,” Shanahan said. “We know he can play safety. It’s because we’re in a situation where we think it could possibly improve our team. That’s what we’re trying to find out now. I think it’s a win-win for him and if he plays at the level he’s capable of it’ll be a win-win for the Niners.”

Reid’s future with the 49ers likely hinges on how he adapts.

Saleh said he would not be surprised if Reid earns the full-time role in the starting lineup at some point soon, as the 49ers seek an upgrade from the inconsistencies of Ray-Ray Armstrong at the weakside linebacker position.

But the 49ers likely already have their starters for next season, with Malcolm Smith expected to return at full strength to pair with middle linebacker Reuben Foster.

49ers takeaways: What we learned in 24-20 Week 3 win over Steelers

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USATSI

49ers takeaways: What we learned in 24-20 Week 3 win over Steelers

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gave 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis a chance at the biggest-possible moment, and Pettis came through.

Garoppolo squeezed a pass into Pettis, who made the grab between two Pittsburgh Steelers defenders for a 5-yard touchdown that provided the winning points for the 49ers with 1:20 remaining.

The 49ers’ 24-20 victory at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday gave San Francisco its first 3-0 start since the 1998 season.

What a weird game it was ...

Here are three takeaways:    

Give it back -- again and again ...

The 49ers’ offense was about as bad as possible in the first half.

Garoppolo was on target with most of his throws, and he accounted for 170 passing yards. But the 49ers managed only three points because of four giveaways.

Garoppolo had two passes intercepted off the hands of intended receivers. And the 49ers gave it away twice on fumbles for a minus-four turnover margin after 30 minutes of play.

But, miraculously, the 49ers trailed just 6-3 at the half. The Steelers managed just two field goals off those turnovers. Pittsburgh cashed in an interception on a pass that Matt Breida bobbled and another interception on a catchable pass to Pettis that was deflected.

The 49ers also lost two prime scoring chances when Raheem Mostert fumbled inside in the Steelers’ 20-yard line and Garoppolo and center Weston Richburg botched a snap for a turnover at the Pittsburgh 7.

The 49ers had a fifth costly turnover in the middle of the fourth quarter when a direct snap hit wide receiver Richie James and the Steelers recovered on a play that originated from the Pittsburgh 7.

Garoppolo completed 23 of 32 passes for 277 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He led the team on the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.  

Defense prevents blowout loss

Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, making his first NFL start in place of Ben Roethlisberger, was given some favorable situations in the first half. But the 49ers’ defense kept the damage to a minimum.

The Steelers managed just five yards after their first takeaway and had to settle for Chris Boswell’s 46-yard field goal. Then, DeForest Buckner tripped up Rudolph for a 1-yard gain on a third-and-6 scramble, and Boswell kicked a 26-yarder.

The defense did a good job of stopping the Steelers on their early-down run plays, then keeping the ball in front of them to hold Pittsburgh to one or fewer first downs on six of their seven possessions in the first half.

The 49ers ended up taking the lead early in the third quarter, but the defense finally had a misstep when Ahkello Witherspoon allowed a crossing pattern against JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tarvarius Moore took a poor angle to allow a 76-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter.      

Verrett is needed -- does not respond

Veteran cornerback Jason Verrett was brought to the team to provide competition for Witherspoon at right cornerback. Verrett finally got his chance on Sunday, and he struggled.

Witherspoon won the starting job to open the season without much competition when Verrett sustained an ankle sprain on Aug. 7 that knocked him out of the preseason.

After being inactive for the first two games of the season, Verrett was in uniform on Sunday. And when Witherspoon left the game in the fourth quarter due to a foot injury, the 49ers turned to Verrett.

The Steelers turned to him, too.

Mason Rudolph, making his first NFL start, went after Verrett on the second play after Witherspoon left the game. Verrett was called for a 32-yard penalty for pass interference against James Washington.

On the next play, Verrett allowed Diontae Johnson to get behind him for an easy 39-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph. The play gave Pittsburgh a 20-17 lead with 10:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The next time the defense took the field, Emmanuel Moseley replaced Verrett at right cornerback.

Ahkello Witherspoon leaves 49ers-Steelers game on cart with foot injury

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AP

Ahkello Witherspoon leaves 49ers-Steelers game on cart with foot injury

49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon suffered a foot injury during the second half of San Francisco’s Week 3 game Sunday afternoon against the Steelers at Levi's Stadium. He is questionable to return after leaving the game on a cart.

Jason Verrett replaced Witherspoon and immediately committed a costly pass interference penalty before getting beat deep on a go-ahead Steelers touchdown.

Witherspoon had been playing great football for the 49ers so far this season after finding a newfound swagger heading into the year.

The 49ers are currently trailing the Steelers 20-17 in the fourth quarter.

This story will be updated.