49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk fulfilling promise as offensive weapon


Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is looking more and more like the "OW" that 49ers general manager John Lynch described him to be when the club signed him on the first day of free agency in 2017.

Juszczyk, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has carried the ball just 23 times in his seven-year career, but he has shown to be an offensive weapon for the 49ers, nonetheless.

In the 49ers’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers before the bye week, Juszczyk played a huge role as a pass-catcher, lead-blocker and tone-setter. At a time when the fullback position is being marginalized around the NFL, in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, the 49ers had Juszczyk on the field for 50 of their 79 offensive plays.

“I can feel Kyle’s confidence at the end of a game when he continues to call two-back personnel no matter the situation,” Juszczyk said. “When we’re in 21 or 22 personnel when the game’s on the line, for him to do that, it means so much to me to have that trust in me to make plays.”

Juszczyk has proven to be a valuable member of the offense in a variety of roles. He made a full-length diving catch of a Jimmy Garoppolo pass for a 27-yard reception in the first half. He also helped the 49ers establish a rough-and-tumble mindset with a nasty stiff-arm that sent Pittsburgh defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick reeling to highlight another pass reception.

“The diving catch, I thought there was no way he was getting to that and somehow he did,” Shanahan said. “Then the one he made down the seam, throwing the safety out of the way and stuff, those were two extremely impressive plays, and he played better in the run game.

“He was one of our best players in the run game. He does that a lot, but when he makes some plays like that in the pass game, I think he gets a little more credit, and it’s deserved.”

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Juszczyk assisted running back Jeff Wilson with punishing blocks near the goal line on his two touchdown runs in the 49ers’ 24-20 victory over the Steelers in Week 3. Juszczyk also had a strong all-around game in the team’s Week 2 win at Cincinnati.

“I love playing against the AFC North,” said Juszczyk, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. “These are opponents that I’m familiar with, and it’s a brand of football I’m familiar with. I’ve been fired up these past two weeks to play against them, and I’m going to be fired up to play against Cleveland when we come back.”

The 49ers return to practice on Monday morning in Santa Clara to begin preparations to face the Cleveland Browns on Monday, Oct. 7, at Levi’s Stadium.

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