T.J. Watt is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best player.
So that meant 49ers right tackle Colton McKivitz had the biggest challenge in the regular-season opener on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“He had the toughest matchup on the field, and there were definitely a number (of times) Watt got him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
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“There were a couple of situations we could have helped him out better with some shifts and stuff. He battled throughout it. But it was good enough for us to win. It was a huge challenge going against that player.”
Watt, the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, registered three sacks of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy while going one-on-one against McKivitz.
Still, the 49ers returned home with a convincing 30-7 victory over the Steelers.
It does not appear as if the 49ers lost any confidence in McKivitz, who was the clear choice to replace free-agent departure Mike McGlinchey in the offseason.
San Francisco 49ers
McKivitz is in his first season as the starter but he has played in important games in the past. In 2021, he replaced injured left tackle Trent Williams for the must-win Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers won to wrap up a spot in the NFC playoffs as a wild-card team.
“He’s been thrown into some tough positions,” Shanahan said of McKivitz. “But Watt is as good as it gets on the edge, especially in that atmosphere, especially early in that game.
"But he kept battling, and I think he’ll do better next week.”
Shanahan singled out Watt’s third sack as a play call that put McKivitz in a bad situation. He said he called a play that was based on what he expected the Steelers to do defensively.
He guessed wrong, which left McKivitz in a situation where he had to hold up longer in protection than expected. The play resulted in a turnover when Watt forced his second Purdy fumble of the game.
“I wish I didn’t call that in that situation so we could’ve gotten rid of it quicker,” Shanahan said. “But even when it does happen, Brock still has to protect the ball.”