Open letter to Niner Nation, pre-MNF
Dear 49er fans,
While I look forward to rubbing elbows with all of you bar-side for Monday Night Football, be forewarned: There are two very important things you should know, things that drive this lil’ sports writer bananas: 1) when the bartender takes forever to bring me my Guinness, and 2) when somebody tries talking to me during a game and has NO idea what they’re talking about.
Now, Niner faithful, I know you are better than that. You stuck by your team when Alex Smith was bench-ridden and no coach could last more than one season.
Going into Monday Night Football, I know you might be fixated on the fact that Roethlisberger is hurt and Harrison is suspended. But you know—as I know—that there’s way more to this game than those two players.
So if you’re going to talk shop with me over a beer this Monday night, here are some fun facts we can kibitz about:
1) The running back match-up. While Frank Gore is still sitting pretty with 1,054 yards on 234 carries, he hasn’t been quite as sprightly since he junked up his knee against the Giants. Opposing RB Rashard Mendenhall is no slouch: The guy might have a mere 710 rushing yards on 187 carries, but he beats out Gore in TDs. And with both teams averaging about 120 rushing yards a game, it’ll all depend on which big bad running back bursts into beast-mode first.
2) Those D-lines. The 49ers defense holds opponents to an average of 14 points a game, while Pittsburgh allows 15. Sounds pretty close, until you realize that the Niners give 60 more passing yards a game than the Steelers do. Plus, each side might be missing heavy hitters due to injury: Pitt’s Troy Polamalu is questionable with one of his two bagillion injuries, and SF linebacker extraordinaire Patrick Willis is still doubtful for Monday. Will both d-lines still put up a fight? Of course they will, especially late in the season when every win counts.
Let’s just hope they can do work without giving anyone a concussion.
3) And last but not least, the home-field advantage. The Niners are 6-1 at home, with chips on their shoulders from last week’s debacle in Arizona. And—here’s a little history for you—when these two teams last matched up at Candlestick Point in 2003, SF beat Pittsburgh 30-14. However, while the Steel Curtain is 4-2 on the road, they’ve won four straight.
This should be one hell of a late-season brawl, 49er fans. See you all for the Monday Night madness.