PITTSBURGH — The Seahawks lost their preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers 32-25 Saturday night at Acrisure Stadium.
But more important than the destination was the journey and what we saw along the way.
Here are five day-after thoughts on the first game the Seahawks have played since 2011 without Russell Wilson on the roster.
QB conundrum murkier than ever
In the second significant test of the quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock to take over for Wilson, Lock again seemed to have the better day — at least numerically. Lock was 11 of 15 for 102 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 131.1 to Smith’s 10 of 15 for 101 yards and zero TDs and a rating of 85.7.
But there were all kinds of caveats. Smith played behind the Seahawks’ No. 1 offensive line, which would seem a significant advantage, while Lock played behind the backups. Smith had two passes dropped and another that should have been complete had tight end Noah Fant gotten both feet inbounds.
Lock made the key mistake of the game, failing to recognize an unblocked rusher coming off the left side, which resulted in a blindside hit and a sack and lost fumble when the Seahawks had a chance to win the game. The recovery allowed the Steelers to drive for the winning score with three seconds left.
So where do things stand now?
Coach Pete Carroll frankly put the blame for the fumble on Lock — as, admirably, did Lock himself. And even if it was just one play, it’s the kind of play that Lock has to show he can make (or avoid) to earn Carroll’s trust as the starter.
The guess here is that nothing has changed on the QB depth chart. But two preseason games remain, beginning with Thursday’s contest against the Chicago Bears at Lumen Field, and almost a month until the opener against Wilson and the Broncos on Sept. 12.
Tackles looked good
The game was the first significant test for the Seahawks’ two rookie tackles — left tackle Charles Cross and right tackle Abraham Lucas.
Cross played the first 37 snaps, working with the first-team offense the entire first half and playing the first series of the second half when Lock led a nine-play, 73-yard drive for a TD. Lucas entered for the third series of the game after Jake Curhan started at right tackle.
And coincidence or not, that’s when the Seahawks’ offense got going. Lucas played 49 snaps covering six possessions and they scored on four of them, including three touchdown drives.
The running game also got going once he was in the game. The Seahawks had just 14 yards rushing on five attempts on their first two series before Lucas entered. On his first running play he helped clear the way for a 16-yard run by Travis Homer on the last play of the first quarter.
While the right tackle spot officially remains a competition between Lucas and Curhan, it will be little surprise if Lucas is working with the first-team offense this week.
Running back depth impressive
Sure, it’s just the preseason, and the Steelers had a lot of backups and deep reserves on defense as the game wore on. None of their standout defensive line of T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogounjobi and Tyson Alualu played a snap, and linebacker Myles Jack of Bellevue High played a perfunctory eight.
So, take some of the Seahawks running-game success — 159 yards on 26 carries — with a grain of salt.
But backups Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas acquitted themselves well. Dallas led all rushers with 73 yards on 10 carries while Homer had 41 on four. Each also had key pass receptions — Dallas a 17-yarder for a TD from Lock in the fourth quarter and Homer a 25-yarder from Smith in the first quarter that keyed their first scoring drive.
If nothing else, the performances seemed to solidify how the Seahawks’ running-back corps will look this year with Homer and Dallas backing up Rashaad Penny and rookie Ken Walker III, who started and had 19 yards on five carries on 12 snaps.
More time for young corners
Injuries to starters Sidney Jones IV and Artie Burns meant the Seahawks began the game with Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen as the starting cornerbacks. Each gave up touchdowns in the first quarter, showing that while each has massive potential, they have room to grow and that, for now, the Seahawks might rely on the more proven veterans to start the season.
An ongoing subplot is that Bryant played substantially at nickel, which he had begun to do during the week in practice, backing up Justin Coleman. That had Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi, the starters at nickel the past two years, mostly playing at safety.
The Seahawks are deep at safety with Josh Jones emerging as the third safety behind Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. Ryan Neal, sidelined with an ankle injury, is still in the mix.
If the Seahawks think Bryant’s best fit is at nickel, it could also go a long way toward determining the futures of Blair and Amadi.
Four who stood out
- We can’t go without mentioning how well rookie linebacker Boye Mafe, a second-round pick out of Minnesota, played. He had two sacks and a forced fumble as well as a tackle on a 38-yard punt return by Steven Sims that might have saved a touchdown. Mafe and Woolen each played 44 snaps, the most of any defensive players.
- Rookie receivers Bo Melton and Dareke Young acquitted themselves well. Melton had two catches for 47 yards including a 39-yarder from Lock that led to a TD drive in the third quarter. Young led the team with four receptions for 30 yards including a three-yard TD from Lock that capped the drive that began with Melton’s catch. Each might make it hard for the Seahawks to leave them off the 53-man roster.
- Third-year defensive tackle Myles Adams played 41 snaps and finished with four tackles, a pass defense and a quarterback hit. The Seahawks have a solid group of veteran defensive tackles, so Adams may have a hard road to making it on the 53. But he may make the decision a difficult one.
- The Seahawks don’t have many rookie undrafted free agents vying to make the roster this year, in part because with nine draft picks there just isn’t a lot of room (all nine could make the 53). But one who stood out Saturday was linebacker Vi Jones, who had six tackles and a sack for a loss of nine yards. And hat tip to rookie linebacker Joel Dublanko, who signed Aug. 5. Dublanko had eight tackles in 32 snaps played.