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Old 09-23-2007, 05:55 AM   #1
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Default Steelers-49ers key matchup

Steelers-49ers key matchup
By Mike Prisuta
Sunday, September 23, 2007

49ers RT Joe Staley vs. Steelers OLB Clark Haggans

49ers RT Joe Staley: Staley was drafted 28th overall out of Central Michigan back in April, the second of San Francisco's two first-round picks (linebacker Patrick Willis went at No. 11 overall). One of the reasons why he became the first No. 1 pick in CMU history was his speed. Staley ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest time of any offensive lineman. At 6-foot-5 and 306 pounds, he also has the prerequisite size. He's started twice on an offensive line that hasn't been able to get RB Frank Gore over 100 yards on the ground yet and has allowed seven sacks in two games.

Steelers OLB Clark Haggans: Normally the starter at left outside linebacker, Haggans moved over to the right side for the second half of last Sunday's 26-3 win over Buffalo after LB James Harrison was lost to a neck injury. Harrison should be back against San Francisco, which means Haggans (6-4, 243) can return to the starting position he's occupied since 2004. Haggans has a sack and two quarterback hurries to his credit this season, and has moved to within one-and-a-half quarterback drops of tying Chad Brown and Mike Merriweather for 13th place on the Steelers' all-time list.

The matchup: The Steelers will be out to confuse QB Alex Smith, a third-year pro, with their array of blitzes and coverages. Staley should also get an education as far as where the pass rush is coming from and how committed the Steelers are to stopping the run. Playing on the road won't make it any easier for Staley, who has to hold up if the 49ers' offense -- ranked 23rd in rushing, 31st in passing and 32nd and dead last overall -- is to have a chance to become a factor.
Edge: Haggans

Last week: CB Deshea Townsend and the Steelers' secondary identified Bills WR Lee Evans as a player they had to contain, then went out and contained him. Evans caught two passes for 17 yards and the Bills got slaughtered.
Edge: Townsend
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