Kurtenbach: Studs and duds from the 49ers’ brilliant season-opening win over the Steelers

San Francisco 49ers: Brock Purdy and Brandon Aiyuk have big days in the 49ers’ blowout win over the Steelers.

What a way to start the season.

Under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have been slow starters in recent years, feeling out the season before going on a late run.

This season began with one of the best performances of the Shanahan era.

The Niners dominated in every aspect of the game, resulting in a large number of studs (not all of whom are listed here) and some serious stretches to find some duds.

The Guys

Brock Purdy, quarterback

The elbow appears to be in good condition.

In his first game back from elbow surgery, the now-undisputed starter led Shanahan’s offense with aplomb, not only making the necessary timing throws to move the ball down the field with yards after the catch, but also challenging the Pittsburgh defense with deep shots and scrambles.

Purdy completed 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks.

In short, Purdy appeared to be a better version of the quarterback we saw last season — a season in which he did not lose a regular-season game.

Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver

It was his best game in the NFL. Aiyuk was an unstoppable force on Sunday, juking Patrick Peterson into the next county for his first touchdown of the game and then scoring on a brilliant contested back-shoulder catch.

Aiyuk was wide open the entire game (except for the second touchdown). That isn’t just Shanahan’s scheme; that is a receiver performing at the highest level.

Aiyuk finished with eight catches on eight targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns. On Sunday, he posted a whopping 17.7 expected points added.

Aiyuk also had a huge downfield block to assist Christian McCaffrey on his 65-yard run to the end zone early in the second half.

The breakthrough has arrived, and it is spectacular.

Fred Warner, LB

The Niners’ middle linebacker delivered a dominant performance reminiscent of a bygone era in the NFL.

He had two pass breakups, one of which led to an interception for Talanoa Hufanga. He also stymied the Steelers’ run game with sideline-to-sideline coverage, along with Dre Greenlaw.

Warner dominated the entire field, finishing with eight tackles.

Javon Hargrave, DT

Because the 49ers’ new defensive tackle and key offseason acquisition had a brilliant game in the middle of the defensive line, the Niners’ linebackers ran free.

He was not only strong against the run, always creating a push and frequently taking on multiple linemen, but he also showed pass-rush ability, picking up a late sack.

Since trading DeForest Buckner to the Colts, the Niners have been looking for an impact 1-technique lineman.

Hargrave appears to be that player, and he changes everything for this defense.

Drake Jackson, DE

Jackson was used as a third-down specialist by new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Excellent decision.

Jackson had three sacks on Sunday, two on third down and one in garbage time, and displayed a strong outside burst. His combination with Clelin Ferrell, the Niners’ first- and second-down option opposite Nick Bosa, appears promising.

RB Christian McAfee

On the whole, it wasn’t a great game for McCaffrey — he had a lot of short runs against a Pittsburgh defense that knew the Niners were running while up big.

However, the Niners’ running back, who has yet to lose a regular-season game in a San Francisco uniform, scored the game-winning touchdown in the third quarter with a spectacular spinning 65-yard run.

Jake Moody, K

On the day, it was ideal. Everyone can now take a deep breath.

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