SANTA CLARA — Jeff Wilson Jr. might be just 6 feet tall and weigh under 200 pounds, but he has turned into the 49ers' unofficial goal-line running back. He has scored four touchdowns in the last two games alone, including two during the 49ers' 24-20 victory over the Steelers on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
The 49ers have not had a power back that can barrel into the end zone since Frank Gore was on the roster, but they might have found what they need in Wilson. In short-yardage situations they have called Wilson’s number -- and he has responded in spades.
The second-year undrafted free agent is no stranger to being called upon at the goal line. Wilson scored 30 touchdowns in his final two seasons at North Texas during college, and describes his running style as very simple and straight ahead.
“I like to get downhill,“ Wilson said after Sunday's win. “I don’t like to waste time, I don’t like to do much dancing. I love contact so that’s kind of like my trait. One step downhill, that’s kind of what I like to do. I can do other stuff as well but I feel like the thing that makes me me, is getting downhill.”
The coaching staff has put their trust in Wilson, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk understands why. The veteran has seen a toughness from Wilson, who has stepped up to the plate in the team’s last two games after Tevin Coleman injured his ankle.
"Jeff has brought an attitude to his game,” Juszczyk said. “We joke, he ‘shoulder-punches’ defenders when they try to tackle him. That’s something you need around the goal line. Things are tighter. A lot of times, it’s one-on-one, and who’s going to win that battle. He’s a guy we can trust to do that."
The 49ers' running back corps had been considered one of the deepest backfields in the league, but injuries to Jerick McKinnon and Coleman significantly changed that. With the two prominent backs sidelined, the snaps have been shared between Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Wilson, who sees each carry as an important step in proving his ability.
“That feels great,” Wilson said. “To have that opportunity, especially at this level I mean that’s a big role for me to have. That’s why you don’t take it lightly no matter if you’re getting a lot of touches or if you’re getting one or two touches. You got to take that role and you got to embrace it so I just try to embrace it every chance I get.”
[RELATED: What 49ers' 3-0 start means for chances of making playoffs]
There is a possibility that Coleman returns to the lineup after the bye week, when the 49ers face the Browns on "Monday Night Football." But that doesn’t concern Wilson.
He will remain ready for whenever his number is called and has the utmost respect for his position counterparts. He is completely willing to take whatever role the team deems him necessary, especially at the goal line.
"It could be anybody," WIlson said. "It could be me, Matt Breida, Tevin when he comes back, whoever. You just have to be ready for the opportunity."