Keep in mind that the Pittsburgh Steelers are supposed to be pretty good.
And were at home.
“We got kicked in the teeth in a lot of areas,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
I can think of only one season-opening win that compares — a 44-14 win over the Los Angeles Raiders at Candlestick Park to open the 1994 season.
Which also happens to be the last season that ended with the 49ers hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
The Raiders, in what turned out to be their last season in Los Angeles before returning to Oakland, were regarded as AFC contenders because of their speed and athleticism. They may as well have been running in quicksand against the 49ers.
In that game, the 49ers took control in the second half as opposed to taking apart the Steelers in the first half. The 49ers led 23-14, and won going away in a coronation for wide receiver Jerry Rice.
Rice broke Jim Brown’s all-time NFL touchdown record with his 127th career touchdown after catching a 69-yard touchdown pass, running 23 yards for a touchdown and finally tumbling into the end zone on a 38-yard scoring pass from Steve Young to close out the scoring.
The 49ers went on to win the Super Bowl when Young threw six touchdown passes against the San Diego Chargers, but it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing in the aftermath of the opener.
They lost the next week 24-17 in the Young vs. Joe Montana game in Kansas City the following week. They were 3-2 after a 40-8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Candlestick in the game in which Young screamed at coach George Seifert for removing him from a blowout loss.
Then came a 10-game win streak in the regular season, a defining 38-28 win over Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl win over the Chargers in Miami.
Whether these 49ers are up to that will play out over the next 16-plus games.
A look at the 49ers’ other openers in seasons that resulted in an NFC Championship or Super Bowl win:
2019 — 49ers 31, Tampa Bay 17: The 49ers outscored the Bucs 25-10 on the road in the second half to pull away and intercepted Jameis Winston three times. Two of the interceptions were returned for touchdowns, one by Richard Sherman, the other by Ahkello Witherspoon. The 49ers won the NFC title but lost to Kansas City 31-20 in the Super Bowl.
Steve Young holds the Super Bowl trophy after the 49ers won the championship in Miami over San Diego following the 1994 season. A.P. Photo
2012 — 49ers 30, Green Bay 22: Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards and the 49ers rushed for 186 in winning at Lambeau Field, building a 23-7 lead in the third quarter. The 49ers finished 11-4-1, beat Atlanta in the NFC title game with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and fell 34-31 to Baltimore in the Super Bowl in the battle of Jim and John Harbaugh.
1994 — 49ers 44, Raiders 14: Besides the Rice extravaganza, Brent Jones caught two touchdown passes and Young was 19 of 32 for 308 yards and four touchdowns. Wins over Chicago (44-15), Dallas and finally San Diego gave the 49ers their last Super Bowl title.
1989 — 49ers 30, Indianapolis 24: Joe Montana was 15 of 26 for 233 yards and a touchdown in a win over a host Colts team that would finish 8-8. Roger Craig led the offense with 24 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers would later have one of the most dominant postseasons in NFL history, beating Minnesota 41-13, the L.A. Rams 30-3 and finally Denver 55-10 in the Super Bowl under coach George Seifert.
1988 — 49ers 34, New Orleans 33: The 49ers trailed 17-10 at halftime but rallied in the second half at the SuperDome. Montana threw three touchdown passes and withstood a four-touchdown pass performance by Bobby Hebert. The 49ers finished just 10-6, but beat Minnesota (34-9), Chicago on the road (28-3) and finally Cincinnati in the Super Bowl (20-16) on a Montana-to-Taylor pass in the last game under coach Bill Walsh.
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1984 — 49ers 30, Detroit 27: A 15-1 regular season followed by a convincing Super Bowl run began needing a game-winning 22-yard field goal by Ray Wersching in Detroit. Montana was 16 of 25 for 188 yards. Wersching kicked three field goals. It was no contest in the postseason, with the 49ers beating the New York Giants (21-10), Chicago (23-0) and finally Miami (38-16) at Stanford for the Super Bowl championship.
1981– Detroit 24, 49ers 17: Coming off a 6-10 season, the 49ers’ Cinderella season for their first Super Bowl championship began with a road loss in Detroit when Billy Sims scored the winning touchdown from a yard out. Montana was 18 of 28 for 195 yards but sacked four times. The 49ers, however, finished 13-3 and in the playoffs defeated the New York Giants 38-24, Dallas 28-27 (The Catch) and finally Cincinnati 26-21 in Detroit — the same place they started the season.