By most measures, the first three games of 49ers rookie Nick Bosa’s NFL career have been a huge success despite the Ohio State product experiencing the limitations of playing with a bothersome ankle sprain.
The next part for Bosa is to improve on doing something he does not practice.
In the second quarter of the 49ers’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, Bosa flew off the edge and beat left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Bosa appeared to be zeroing in on quarterback Mason Rudolph for a blindside hit and possible strip-sack.
Instead, Rudolph stepped up to avoid the sack.
“I don’t know what happened on that. I got cold feet,” said Bosa, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. “It’s coming together. I just got to keep going. The finishing part is tough because you never practice it. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, I beat the lineman, so what do I do now?’ It’s just getting used to finishing plays, and that will come.”
Almost everything else has come easy for Bosa, who leads the 49ers with 17 quarterback pressures in three games, according to Pro Football Focus. DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are tied for second on the club with nine apiece.
Bosa has one sack, ranking behind Buckner, Armstead and Dee Ford, each of whom has two sacks.
The play of the defense enabled the 49ers to overcome five giveaways on offense to pull out the 24-20 victory over Pittsburgh. Bosa made his first NFL start and gave Villanueva, a five-year veteran, all he could handle, though Bosa was credited with just one tackle for loss. Bosa said he is getting more and more comfortable.
“It was really slowed down for me,” Bosa said. “I think I played really well. I think our D-line played unbelievable.
“It was so much fun. I don’t even care that I missed a couple (of sacks) because we got the win and other guys had great games. I’m just glad I did my part.”
He missed most of his final year at Ohio State with a bilateral core muscle tear, which required season-ending surgery. He missed the final month of training camp and all four of the 49ers' preseason games after sustaining a right ankle sprain on Aug. 7.
Bosa said he was bothered by the ankle injury in the first two games of the season but expects to be all the way back when the 49ers return from the bye week to face the Cleveland Browns on Monday, Oct. 7. As he gets back into a pass-rushing rhythm he also makes an emphasis to use more of an array of his physical tools, he said.
“I’ve been using speed so much, and I have really good power,” Bosa said. "Just sometimes I don’t use it. Before the rush, I think, ‘I got to use power; got to use power.’ Then, I go speed and I go, ‘Why did I do that? I got to use power.’
“I brought power almost all day (against the Steelers). Hit them with a couple speed moves, but I knew I could get underneath him and power him, so I did.”
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Bosa is in a position as a rookie where there is not a lot of pressure on him to do it alone. The 49ers have four other first-round draft picks on the defensive line: Buckner, Armstead, Ford and Solomon Thomas. Bosa fits in well with that group, whose play has elevated the entire team and is most responsible for the 3-0 start.
“Once you get into practice with them and see how they work every day, you really find out what kind of player they are,” Bosa said.