A battle of fallen perennial contenders takes center stage on Sunday night when the Seattle Seahawks make the trek to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Seattle failed to overcome the loss of quarterback Russell Wilson last week against an elite Los Angeles Rams team. The Steelers, on the other hand, survived a run-in with the Denver Broncos to snap a three-game losing streak. We’ll see which team takes the next step forward in this inter-conference clash.
Wilson out indefinitely for SeattleThe Seahawks are 2-3 on the season with Russell Wilson sidelined indefinitely with a ruptured tendon in his middle finger.
Can things get any worse?
The playoff hopes for the struggling team now falls on the shoulders of backup quarterback Geno Smith and an offense still having issues running the ball. They will especially struggle in Pittsburgh against a Steelers defense barely allowing an average 100 yards on the ground per game. The biggest question is whether Smith can take advantage of the Steelers’ secondary. He came off the bench and made it interesting against the Rams last week.
The Seahawks still have Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf to blow up defensive backfields, but the drop-off from a future Hall of Fame caliber quarterback like Wilson to Smith is steep. It’s going to take a complete team effort to fill that void.
Keep in mind, Metcalf and running back Chris Carson both sat out of practice on Thursday.
Ben Roethlisberger may not be the quarterback from what some Steelers fans consider the good old days, but he’ll be throwing into the teeth of a Seahawks defense that clearly needs some work on the backend. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 305.6 passing yards per game against the Seahawks this season, which is second-worst behind the Dallas Cowboys.
The difference is the Cowboys have an elite offense to make up for the defensive struggles. Seattle doesn’t need me to tell them that’s a luxury they won’t have in this matchup. One area that has kept them somewhat competitive is their ability to take care of the football. Smith has to avoid the urge to play the sort of hero ball that got him in trouble during his time with the New York Jets.
Steelers lose Smith-SchusterIt’s tough to see any player go down with a season-ending injury, especially a player as influential in the Steelers’ locker room as wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster. But make no mistake, the Steelers still have a tremendous young pair of receivers in Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. So this isn’t a team that’s just going to implode overnight, even though losing Smith-Schuster for the season is tough.
There will be plenty of opportunities for Ben Roethlisberger to turn back the clock against a Seahawks defensive backfield that couldn’t stop a cold right now. They might even be able to finally get their running game going with rookie first-round pick Najee Harris—who knows?
Along with bleeding passing yards, the Seahawks are allowing an average of 145.2 rushing yards per game on the ground. Of course, Harris is a threat both on the ground and through the air. So you can rest assured coach Mike Tomlin is going to find a way to make sure he’s heavily involved in this game.
But the Steelers defense must change the narrative.
Seattle’s offensive front has struggled to keep Russell Wilson upright in the pocket. You can only imagine how hard it’ll be to keep Geno Smith out of trouble. Granted, Smith has the ability to escape with his legs as well, but the instincts and playmaking abilities aren’t the same. You have to admire his heart for what he did against the Rams last week, but there are clearly levels to this.
If enough pressure gets into the backfield, it’s only a matter of time before he starts throwing up prayers that turn into interceptions.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The only thing keeping the Seahawks afloat has been the offense led by quarterback Russell Wilson. Now, he’s set to miss a significant chunk of the season, and the team has been left to fend for itself.
There won’t be any Geno Smith fairytale endings on Sunday night. Sure, he looked great against a Rams team that didn’t have an opportunity to build a game plan around him last week. By the time kick-off rolls around, the Steelers will have had an entire week to prepare for a matchup against the Seahawks with Smith at quarterback.
The biggest issue will be the Seahawks’ inability to keep pace. Their defense is giving up the most total yards in the league (450.8), and they aren’t coming up with enough takeaways to make it a non-talking point. It’s quite simple when breaking down this Seahawks team.
They’re bad at every level.
They can stop the run, and it’s basically open season for would-be passers facing their patchwork secondary. That doesn’t bode well on the road against a desperate Steelers team looking to get to .500 win percentage. Ben Roethlisberger may not be playing great, but he’ll be good enough to get the job done in this one. I’m laying the points and taking Pittsburgh.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Steelers will be able to take whatever they want and when they want it against the Seahawks. That isn’t to insinuate that they’ve suddenly put the pieces together with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. No, this Steelers team is still stuck in mud as long as they continue to cling so desperately to the past. But they can hang a lot of points on the struggling Seahawks. Opposing teams are averaging 25.2 points per game against Seattle this season. The Seahawks will be on the road against a Steelers team that’ll turn back the clock on their offense. Give me the over in this one.