Quick Yinzing: Steelers drop home opener to Seahawks by two points
Welcome to “Quick Yinzing”, a fast reaction article where a member of the SCU staff gives their initial post-game impressions without digging into any films, major stats, or other deep analysis. It’s as real as that car ride home or sobering down at the bar following the game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked like the team we all hoped would show up when they started the game on Sunday with the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, by the middle of the third quarter, it was apparent that the defense was on the field much too long for the second week in a row. With a late surprise effort, due to a forced turnover, the defense did put the game back into reach, allowing a Mason Rudolph-to-Vance McDonald touchdown to get the team within two points. With the two-point conversion no good, the Steelers needed one too many defensive stops, and Keith Butler didn’t make adjustments as Seattle simply let Russell Wilson run the ball until he got his offense into a spot where it took one first-down rush by Chris Carson to set up victory formation. The Steelers fell to 0-2 on the season after the 28-26 home loss.
Steelers defense was solid early, then gassed
Pittsburgh wasted little time getting to Wilson in the opening half of the game. In fact, T.J. Watt was a bullet in Seattle’s first offensive series, dialing in for a sack for an eight-yard loss. Toward the end of the first quarter, Stephon Tuitt and Mark Barron combined for a sack (six-yard loss) and then Tuitt added another on the following play (loss of seven yards). When Watt forced a fumble by Carson, Barron scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Sean Davis made a ridiculous error and illegally blocked Tyler Lockett in the back. It was completely unnecessary and negated the touchdown.
Even though the offense would put the ball into the end zone, Davis’ play was the first of several issues that would plague the defense as the game continued. Dan McCullers would draw a personal foul on a field goal attempt that was forced when Cam Heyward dumped Rashaad Penny for a two-yard loss on third-and-one; the penalty allowed Seattle to score on the next play to tie the game, 7-7.
The Steelers defense saw good performances from Steven Nelson in the backfield and thanks to Mike Hilton, a handoff from Wilson to Carson was mishandled and picked up by rookie Devin Bush who nearly made it into the end zone.
Seattle started utilizing the run, which the Steelers defense suddenly could not defend, and short underneath passing. This will continue to be an area that will plague Pittsburgh until Butler makes proper adjustments.
Offense “ok” with Rudolph in for Roethlisberger
After the pick-six that was taken back due to a penalty, Ben Roethlisberger was able to get the offense into the end zone with a rush by James Conner. On the next series, Roethlisberger was able to complete three straight passes and move the ball despite shaking out his throwing hand and rubbing his elbow. On replay, there was no play that showed Roethlisberger took a hit to the elbow, but after the Steelers took a 10-7 lead into the locker room at the half, it was clear something was not quite right.
Mason Rudolph would be tasked with running the Steelers offense for the remainder of the game. Minus a pass to Donte Moncrief that was tipped by the embattled receiver (who was called out by Steelers Nation for drops in Week 1) that ended up in Seattle’s possession, the young quarterback would rebound for the most part. Conner helped alleviate some pressure placed on Rudolph with a couple of nice plays, including a flea-flicker that was launched downfield to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a ‘play of the week’ 45-yard gain.
Unfortunately, Conner would wind up gimpy and forced out of the game. Moncrief was placed solidly on the bench in favor of allowing Johnny Holton, Ryan Switzer, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson line up with Smith-Schuster. Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell got in some good rushes to assist.
The best offensive series for Pittsburgh was a 12-play affair that saw Rudolph convert a long third-down play via a fantastic twisting grab by Johnson on the pass. Being patient, escaping pressure, Rudolph found McDonald on a sneaky screen. Rudolph would hook up with McDonald again to get the Steelers within two points (the conversion was no good) and the offense could no nothing more because the defense was back on the field again.
Why this loss makes Week 1 loss hurt more
The team looked better in several situations, but there is evidence once again that this team is not powerful enough on offense to threaten opposing defenses and make them alter their plans. The defense is having to be on the field too long as a result, despite the altered personnel packages that came in and out of both games.
Allowing Wilson to run the ball play-after-play in the fourth quarter, utilizing his own legs to move the chains, was nearly inexcusable. Especially since the coverage by the defensive backs, for the most part, was solid on deeper routes. Especially because everyone in the league knows that Wilson can run and gun. Especially because this has been an issue that is not new to the Steelers. And above all that, because Butler isn’t a rookie coach.
The close loss to Seattle at home made the loss to New England more painful because it showed that this Steelers team can enter a game fresh, fast, and nasty, but does not appear to have the endurance for the long game. That is more than being unprepared for prime time. That is having injuries and being unable to put guys into the game that are ready to step up. That is not keeping the “standard”.