SANTA CLARA — Kyle Shanahan wasn’t confident when asked if the 49ers would add a free agent tackle ahead of their home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.
“You look at anything that’s possible,” he said during his Monday afternoon press conference, addressing the hole left thanks to All-Pro tackle Joe Staley going down with a broken leg. “I don’t think there’s a ton of great options out there that are possible.”
With his options limited, Shanahan and the rest of his staff have made the decision to start a player already on their roster, Justin Skule, who entered the 49ers 41-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday in place of Staley.
“He’s going to go this week and I know he’s going to have some ups and downs,” Shanahan said. “But I believe he’s made of the right stuff. When you’re made of the right stuff, whether you have a positive or negative experience, you can always get better from it.”
By beating the Bengals, the 49ers moved to 2-0 for the first time since 2012, but at the expense of Staley’s broken right fibula. Staley has made 176 starts during his tenure in San Francisco, making him one of the most reliable tackles the 49ers have ever had. He’s also the only remaining player from that 2012 team, which reached the Super Bowl.
“It’s a shitty situation with the way that things fell down,” starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It’s a freak play that broke his leg.”
With Staley out for six to eight weeks, the 49ers were confronted with a new task of finding an adequate left tackle to not only keep starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of harm’s way, but keep their offense rolling.
Against Cincinnati, San Francisco amassed 545 total yards of offense — their best showing since 2012.
According to Shanahan, the clear choice — at least for this week — is Skule, who the 49ers drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
“We wouldn’t have kept Skule on our roster if we didn’t think he was an NFL player,” Shanahan said. “You always want to give those guys more time, because the more time they have, the better they get. But, that time ran out.”
Shanahan is crafting a game plan to help the Vanderbilt product, and Staley invited Skule to his house on Tuesday to go over assignments and blocking schemes.
“Joe is still here,” McGlinchey said. “He’s not gone … But I’m also helping him out as much as possible.”
Shanahan expressed his confidence in Skule on Monday, saying that he showcased this exact composure against Cincinnati. Skule helped the 49ers gain 90 of their 259 rushing yards during his quarter of play.
“It’s very meaningful,” Skule said in regards to the praise. “I hope to make them right and go out and play the best football I can.”
Shanahan listed a slew of injuries on Wednesday. In total, six players did not participate in the afternoon’s practice, including defensive end Dee Ford (quad) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (toe).
Ford, the former Kansas City Chief, is managing tendonitis in his quad/knee area. It’s a similar condition that kept him out of the preseason and forced him to leave the Bengals game midway through.
Ford is listed as day-to-day according to Shanahan and will be closely monitored ahead of Sunday.
As for Tartt, the starting strong safety is dealing with an undisclosed toe injury which will limit his practice time this week.
“It’s not a turf toe, but it is his toe,” Shanahan said. “He’ll be day-to-day.”
Along with Ford and Tartt, the 49ers listed the following players on their injury: RB Tevin Coleman (ankle), WR Jalen Hurd (back), T Joe Staley (fibula), and WR Trent Taylor (foot).