Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Levi’s Stadium has a reputation as being notoriously hospital-like since its opening in 2014, both in appearance and general quietude. The 49ers have also been, you know, bad, for most of that time.
Let’s rephrase that.
Aside from 2014 (then 8-8), the 49ers have been abysmal. Their high point was the five-game win streak in 2017 (6-10) led by Jimmy Garoppolo which inspired a sense of optimism that short-circuited just three games into 2018.
But for the first time since 2012, the 49ers are 2-0. And not just 2-0, but 2-0 on the road; the last time that happened was in 1989. In those two road games, the 49ers faithful were praised by head coach Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, cornerback Richard Sherman and anyone else who was asked about fan presence as being immense and making the road games feel like home games.
Now, the 49ers are actually playing a home game with a genuine chance and belief to be a playoff team for the first time since 2014, and they’ll be against some of the best traveling and most imposing road fans in the league in the Pittsburgh Steelers (with their infamous Terrible Towels). Fans have done their part on the road, now they need to come through at home. Take it from Saleh, not me.
Robert Saleh: “Got to get loud”
Saleh gave as firm a call to 49ers fans as there has likely been since they were a playoff team in 2013. He wants Levi’s Stadium rocking on Sunday.
“Got to get loud. Got to get loud,” Saleh said. “There’s no more excuses, right? Everyone talks about Seattle having an unbelievable home field advantage, but I know this stadium can get loud, too. When we’ve got guys, especially for us up front, we need that advantage of the quarterback not being able to go with a hard count. He’s got to go with a silent count. If we’re loud and they have to go silent, I have faith in our pass rushers to beat their linemen off the ball. So, come on.”
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead echoed a similar sentiment about the defensive line feeding off crowd energy. Armstead told KNBR on Thursday that noise is an asset for the defense.
“I hope the fans come out excited and are as loud as possible,” Armstead said. “That’s really an asset for us, the noise of the crowd and it really helps us on defense to do what we do. I’m expecting it to be loud and everybody to come enjoy an exciting game.”
Saleh said the team doesn’t practice with extra noise or music because fans haven’t made that necessary thus far in his 49ers tenure.
“Until our fans give us a reason to, we don’t have to,” Saleh said. “The fans have to get loud.”
Asked if that was a challenge to the fans, Saleh answered in the affirmative: “Oh yeah, absolutely.”
Don’t rule out the Steelers or Mason Rudolph
On paper, the 49ers should beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 49ers (6.5-point favorites by a number of sportsbooks) have won two games on the road and are returning home, while the Steelers are 0-2 and now without their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. But as Saleh told reporters Thursday, backup-turned-starting quarterback Mason Rudolph is no slouch.
Saleh then clarified, with the consideration that his statement might interpreted as one of those “opposing coach praises opposing quarterback” standard points. He meant it.
“We went through and watched all his preseason tapes, his snaps and all that. He’s poised, he really is. And I’m not doing the coach speak, he really is,” Saleh said. “I think, in my honest opinion, I do think Pittsburgh’s got a really good quarterback sitting there with him. You just watch his clips, he’s got a good arm, he’s accurate, he knows exactly where to go with the football so you can tell that’s he’s very well prepared. I’m just really impressed with his tape, much more so than I thought I’d be when I actually turned it on.”
What was it exactly that impressed Saleh?
“He’s at the line, he’s very poised, IDing coverage, IDing his hot throws, taking his five-step drop,” Saleh said. “He’s got great vision to the backfield to move people, throw it exactly where he needs to put the ball. He’s quick with his reads, so the ball’s getting out of his hands. If his first read’s open, it’s out. He’s very capable of playing quarterback and it’s our job to try to make it harder on him.”
- Dee Ford was still absent from practice dealing with tendinitis in his quadriceps/knee area
- Jaquiski Tartt (toe) returned to practice and was limited, along with Nick Bosa and Jimmie Ward