The San Francisco 49ers have a tall task ahead of them in Week 1 of the 2023 season. They have to travel across the country to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 1 p.m. ET game. Those are always difficult for West Coast teams as it is tough to acclimate themselves to the start.
On top of that, the 49ers may not be at full strength. There is a chance that star tight end George Kittle isn’t in the lineup on Sunday afternoon. According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, Kittle is dealing with a groin injury that may sideline him for Week 1.
The All-Pro remained sidelined Monday when the team returned to practice after a three-day break in preparation for Sunday’s opener at Pittsburgh. Kittle has participated in just two practices in more than three weeks, none since he played 12 snaps in the preseason finale Aug. 25.”
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has called the injury Kittle is dealing with an abductor strain. He has been dealing with it for a few weeks now, as it occurred in early to mid-August. It is certainly surprising that Kittle is in danger of missing the game against the Steelers as he was considered healthy enough to play in the team’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Something could have been reaggravated in the game against the Chargers that has caused Kittle to be sidelined for as long as he has been. Unfortunately, playing without Kittle in the lineup is something that the 49ers have become accustomed to.
Kittle missed the first two games of the 2022 season before remaining healthy enough to play in each of the last 18, including the playoffs. That was the longest stretch of games Kittle has played in since 2017-2019 when he appeared in 30 straight, per the San Francisco Chronicle.
If Kittle is unable to play, the 49ers will turn to some combination of Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner and seventh-round rookie Brayden Willis. That would be a huge break for the Steelers as none of those players can impact the game quite like Kittle can.