49ers

NFL rumors: Steelers temper expectations for Mason Rudolph-led offense

NFL rumors: Steelers temper expectations for Mason Rudolph-led offense

The Steelers love Mason Rudolph and have faith in him. How much faith, though, is up for debate.

Rudolph, who starred at Oklahoma State, will make his first career NFL start Sunday when the Steelers (0-2) visit the 49ers (2-0). After star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent season-ending elbow surgery Monday, the Steelers handed the keys to Rudolph, hoping the 2018 second-round draft pick will be able to resuscitate their season.

While Rudolph's arm talent is undeniable, the Steelers are accustomed to having an offense that can put up points at will. As such, their "expectations" for the offense under Rudolph's direction, at least in the early going, have been tempered internally, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday.

On Sunday at Levi's Stadium, Rudolph will have to rely on running back James Conner, wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and college teammate James Washington to make plays against a 49ers defense that has been stout in the first two weeks of the season.

Just because expectations reportedly are "tempered," though, doesn't mean the Steelers lack faith in the young gunslinger, and the team doesn't believe its season is lost just because Roethlisberger is done, per La Canfora.

[RELATED: Jimmy G headlines 49ers to watch vs. Steelers]

Losing Roethlisberger is a huge blow, but Rudolph has the talent to win games. That's why the Steelers traded for slot corner Minkah Fitzpatrick, who will make his debut Sunday against the 49ers. They believe in Rudolph's ability and planned for him to take over for Big Ben someday.

The faith in Rudolph is there, but his first test against Robert Saleh's 49ers defense won't be easy.

NFL playoff picture: Where 49ers stand in top-seed chase after first loss

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NFL playoff picture: Where 49ers stand in top-seed chase after first loss

The 49ers missed an opportunity Monday night to give themselves wiggle room as the NFC's top playoff seed.

They lost to the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks 27-24 at Levi's Stadium, falling to 8-1 on the season. They couldn't strengthen their position in the driver's seat for the NFC's No. 1 spot, but they still control their own destiny.

With only one loss, the 49ers have a slight edge over the NFC's second and third seeds -- the Green Bay Packers (8-2) and New Orleans Saints (7-2). San Francisco plays both Green Bay (Week 12) and New Orleans (Week 14) down the stretch, and wins over both teams could be enough for the 49ers to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC bracket, assuming they take care of business against the remainder of their schedule. 

Had the 49ers won Monday, they would've had two fewer losses than the Packers and the Saints. The Week 17 matchup with the Seahawks takes on extra importance now, as Seattle remains within striking distance of the top seed, too.

The 49ers haven't made the playoffs since 2013 and haven't been the NFC's top seed since 1997. But here's how the 2019 NFC playoff picture looks, assuming the season ended today.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
  2. Green Bay Packers (8-2)
  3. New Orleans Saints (7-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (7-3)


As the top seed, the 49ers would play the lowest remaining team following wild-card weekend. That, assuming the playoff picture doesn't change between now and January, would ensure San Francisco hosts either a division champion (Cowboys), a team boasting NFL leading rusher Dalvin Cook (Vikings) or division rivals with revenge on their minds (Seahawks).

Even with a bye and home-field advantage, the 49ers would have a perilous playoff path to Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

49ers takeaways: What we learned in 27-24 overtime loss to Seahawks

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49ers takeaways: What we learned in 27-24 overtime loss to Seahawks

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA – Things got a lot more interesting in the NFC West.

The 49ers, unbeaten through the first nine weeks of the NFL season, proved they are beatable. Or, more to the point, this game against the Seattle Seahawks beat them up.

Jason Myers kicked a 42-yard field goal with no time remaining in overtime, as the Seahawks got right back in the NFC West race with a 27-24 victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers fall to 8-1 on the season, while the Seahawks are just a half-game back at 8-2. The 49ers could have created some separation with a victory.

Instead, Seattle is right back in the race after making it through the first half of the division schedule unbeaten. The clubs meet against in Week 17 in Seattle.

Quarterback Russell Wilson had an 18-yard scramble in overtime to set up the winning kick for the Seahawks. Wilson completed 24 of 34 pass attempts for 232 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

During the course of Monday’s game, the 49ers lost wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (rib), nose tackle D.J. Jones (groin), defensive end Ronald Blair (knee) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (concussion) to injuries.

Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers in Week 10:

Passing game stalls as injuries pile up

Tight end George Kittle did not suit up for the game due to knee and ankle issues, but the club saw the returns of fullback Kyle Juszczyk and offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

However, more injury issues cropped up in the first half, as receiver Emmanuel Sanders left with a rib injury and did not return. Center Weston Richburg was sidelined near the end of the first half with a hand injury.

The loss of Richburg was almost immediately felt, as Seattle defensive tackle Jarron Reed broke free, working a stunt against backup center Ben Garland and left guard Laken Tomlinson. Reed sacked Jimmy Garoppolo and stripped the ball. Jadeveon Clowney scooped up the fumble and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown to cut the 49ers’ lead to 10-7.

Richburg returned at the beginning of the second half.

The 49ers had a difficult time gaining any consistency in the passing game without Kittle and Sanders. Garroppolo was not sharp, and he got no help from his receivers with approximately seven dropped passes along the way.

Garoppolo completed 24 of 46 pass attempts for 248 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

In the Chase because of McLaughlin, but . . .

Rookie Chase McLaughin booted a 47-yard with one second remaining in regulation to force overtime ... for the 49ers.

But he blew his opportunity to be a hero with 3:06 remaining in overtime when he badly hooked a potential game-winning kick from 47 yards.

The 49ers signed McLaughlin off the street on Thursday, two days after veteran kicker Robbie Gould sustained a right quadriceps strain. McLaughlin came in and was perfect on Monday, including his pressure kick at the end of regulation.

McLaughlin made all three of his field-goal attempts, making kicks of 43, 39 and 47 yards, before missing in overtime.

The game-tying drive came after Myers kicked a 46-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining to give the Seahawks a 21-18 lead. Garoppolo and the 49ers drove 45 yards on 10 plays to put McLaughlin in position for the tying points.

Picking up the defensive slack

The 49ers lost some playmaking when Kwon Alexander sustained a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 9.

Rookie Dre Greenlaw took over in the starting lineup for Alexander, and made the play of the game when he made a leaping interception and 47-yard return midway through the 10-minute overtime period. Russell Wilson was trying to get the ball to tight end Jacob Hollister when Greenlaw made the leaping interception.

Linebacker Fred Warner and nickel back K’Waun Williams came through with plenty of big plays for the defense. Warner recorded two sacks and a forced fumble, while Williams had a half-sack and two forced fumbles.

The 49ers looked to be done early in the fourth quarter before the defense came up with a huge play.

Williams and Arik Armstead teamed up for a sack of Russell Wilson, with Armstead getting credit for forcing the ball loose. Seattle right tackle Germain Ifedi picked it up, and Warner forced a fumble.

That enabled DeForest Buckner to scoop up the ball and return it 12 yards for a touchdown. After Garoppolo hit Kendrick Bourne on the two-point conversion, the 49ers pulled to within three points at 21-18.