By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers have listed one player—one—on their official injury report this week, and that’s a very good sign for the team as it heads to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers Sunday in a big Week 2 matchup for both teams. The revamped 49ers want to prove that their surprisingly dominant Week 1 win over the Minnesota Vikings was no home-cooked fluke, and the Steelers need to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole after losing on the road in Week 1 to the defending Super Bowl champions from New England.READ MORE: UPDATE: Atmospheric River: I-880 Shutdown, Flooded Roadways, Damaged Homes, Massive Rockslides In Storm's Wake
Thus, to have just one player on the injury report is the best the San Francisco organization could have hoped for coming off that Week 1 victory. Running back Reggie Bush, who was hurt early in the Monday Night Football win at Levi’s Stadium, is listed as questionable due to the calf injury he suffered against the Vikings. Before his injury, Bush had two carries for eight yards, but he was expected to play a huge role as a receiver out of the backfield, too. Thus, his injury means some inexperienced players will have to step up in his absence.
Starting running back Carlos Hyde still will carry a large load of the ground-game offense against the Steelers; Bush’s injury doesn’t change that. Like he did early Monday night, though, Bush was expected to be the second-string running back to give Hyde a rest here and there. Hyde still had 26 carries in Week 1, and the 49ers won’t want to overuse him in Bush’s absence. Thus, look for rookie RB Mike Davis to take on that secondary role in terms of grabbing a few carries to spell Hyde. Also, quarterback Colin Kaepernick may get some planned runs, too, to make up for Bush’s normal workload.READ MORE: Atmospheric River: High Winds Topple Trees, Scaffolding in San Francisco
Bush’s role as a pass-catching back will be filled by both Hyde and rugby sensation Jarryd Hayne. Hyde caught two balls on Monday night, but he may end up with a few more targets on Sunday against the Steelers. Hayne, who fumbled a punt return in Week 1, had four carries and one catch against Minnesota, and he will see some increase in action, too, in place of Bush on third downs. Hayne has lots of potential, as we saw in the preseason, and his explosive toughness actually could replace Bush nicely in the game plan.
Overall, this is an injury concern that the 49ers are well-equipped to handle. Bush is 30 years old and has always had injury problems in the NFL. In his first nine seasons in the league—with New Orleans, Miami and Detroit—Bush missed a total of 27 regular-season games. He’s averaged 4.3 yards per carry over his career, and Bush has 466 career receptions, too, along with 53 touchdowns. On the surface, those are tough numbers to replace in any offense. However, as we see above, San Francisco should be able to manage this week against Pittsburgh without Bush in the game—just as they did in Week 1 against Minnesota.
Reggie Bush, Running Back (calf)
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.