49ers’ coach Jim Tomsula doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a ‘Burgh guy from Homestead, Pa., eight miles from where the Steelers used to play.
“We knew how to sneak into Three Rivers (Stadium),” Tomsula revealed on Friday. “Family-wise, they were all there. Not my dad — he was working. My Uncle Tic, I don’t know if he ever missed a game, (and) Aunt Jeanie . . . I mean a lot (of games).”
Years later, Tomsula hopes that he doesn’t want to sneak out of Heinz Field today.
“You’ve got Big Ben (Roethlisberger), OK?” Tomsula shared his short list of concerns with Balls. “You’ve got got 84 (Antonio Brown). You’ve got the running game … They’re a talented football team. They’re very talented. They’re coached well. They can attack the field in all directions. I mean, you’ve got to play sound defense.”
Although their defense has taken a step back in recent years, the Steelers can still bring it as they say. That was a primary reason why Tomsula once idolized Jack Lambert, the Steelers’ maniac of a linebacker.
As Tomsula put it, “When you’re going to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’ve got to strap your helmet up a bit tighter and tie your shoes a little tighter.
Tomsula’s parents Betty Jo and Jim Sr. will be among the 50 or so friends and family members at the game. So will his uncle Robert “Tic” Cloherty, a longtime scoreboard operator at Heinz Field who never missed a game back in the day. His former Steel Valley High School coach George Novak also will be in attendance.
“I got nothing to do with [tickets] and any home games. My wife handles everything,” Tomsula said. “So don’t depend on me for any of that stuff. If they don’t have a helmet on, I’m not paying much attention to it.”
CAL STILL DEFENSELESS: It wasn’t quite “the show” that Cal quarterback Jared Goff had alluded to earlier in the week, but the junior quarterback did throw three touchdown passes and set a school record for career passing yards on Saturday. But we’ve known that Goff can play for a while. That’s why he’s as high as fourth on some NFL draft boards.
It’s that sieve-like Bears’ defense that has to concern head coach Sonny Dykes once again. Cal got out of Austin, Tex., with a 45-44 victory, but it took a botched extra point to save them in the final minutes. They were lit up for 650 yards by a Longhorns’ offense that had totaled 31 points in its first two games. Freshman quarterback Jarrod Heard passed for 364 yards alone.
The Bears are off to a 3-0 start for the first time in four years. Bully for them. As long as Goff stays healthy and packs his A game, they will be entertaining and competitive. But if a significant bowl game is the goal, then defense will have to do its part eventually.
By the way, Cal allowed fewer than 24 points in a game only three times in Dykes’ two-plus seasons — and one was against Sacramento State.
THE DAILY HAYNE: 49ers’ rookie Jarryd Hayne will make NFL history in Pittsburgh today if he fields a punt from the Steelers’ Jordan Berry, which would be the first such Aussie-to-Aussie connection ever.
Barry had quite a debut last week, when the rookie averaged 43.5 yards per kick against the New England Patriots in the league opener.
“We’ll see what they’re running and see what their coach has got lined up for us tactics-wise and go from there. Just try and shut him down,” Berry said in a podcast interview with Australia-centric The Woot and Wye Show. “From what I’ve seen of him, especially on the punt and kick returns, he’s doing really well. That’s an area he can definitely make his mark in the NFL. In the running back sort of stuff, he’s obviously made a few great plays.”
Berry attended Kentucky, but when the son of a rugby coach was unable to land an NFL gig, he returned to Melbourne. He worked at a McDonald’s to make money for a return trip to the United States, where the Steelers offered him a tryout. He beat out Australian punter Brad Wing for the job.
“It’s a long, hard slog,” Berry said. “Most guys don’t make it on their first year or sometimes second year out of college. It’s something you’ve got to really want to do and you just have to really focus on it.”
NOT SO FAST: Hayne figures to have a busy day. Bruce Ellington has a gimpy angle, which leaves Hayne and rookie DeAndrew White as the candidates to return punts. With Reggie Bush (calf) unavailable, Hayne figures to get more carries as the No. 2 running back.
Then again, Hayne’s role continues to be a well-guarded secret, especially after he muffed the first touch of his career and misjudged another one on Monday Night Football.
“We’ll see,” was all special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey would say about Hayne’s status in the return game.
SAME OLD RAIDERS: The term “must-win situation” is generally reserved for elimination games. But is it possible for an NFL team to face one in the second game of a 16-game season?
In the case of coach Jack Del Rio and the Raiders, Balls thinks so.
Fall to the Baltimore Ravens today, and the Raiders are off to an 0-2 start with both losses at home. It would mark the sixth time in the last 13 years that they failed to at least split their first two games.
Yep, Balls can just hear it now — Here we go again.
History says it’s gonna happen, too. In nine seasons as Jacksonsville Jaguars head coach, Del Rio had a 3-6 record in the second game of the regular season. And his teams failed to score more than 17 points in every one of them.
After the way Del Rio’s defense was schooled by Cincinnati Bengals o-coordinator and ex-Raiders coach Hue Jackson in the season opener, it’s time to make a statement that this year will be different. Otherwise, it may not be too early to call him Del Ri-uh-oh.
LIKE OLD TIMES: The San Jose Hockey Country Club opened training camp this weekend, and after an offseason that saw general manager Doug Wilson did little more than rearrange deck chairs, Balls would be a lot more excited if it was 2010 again.
THE LIST: NFL picks against the spread in Week Two:
Baltimore Ravens (-6) at Raiders: A banged-up quarterback and safeties spells trouble already. Ravens.
Detroit Lions (+2 1/2) at Minnesota Vikings: Does o-coordinator Norv Turner know Adrian Peterson is back with the team? Lions
New England Patriots (-1) at Buffalo Bills: A rookie quarterback has no chance against the Belicheats. Patriots.
49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6): A short week, cross-country trip, 10 a.m. (local) start and Ben Roethlisberger are hard to beat. Steelers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-10): The Saints will put up a big number at home against an overmatched defense. Saints.
(Last week: 3-2.)
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