PITTSBURGH — In seconds, it turned from potentially one of the more improbable wins in recent Seahawks history to what had felt for much of the night like a sadly inevitable loss.

The Seahawks, who had used their best running game of the season and their most solid defensive performance to rally from an early two-touchdown deficit to force overtime on a field goal with no time left, were poised to finally take the lead and get a victory in their first game in 10 seasons without Russell Wilson at quarterback.

Then in a flash, the ball and the game were gone, and the 2021 season was thrown into further disarray, when quarterback Geno Smith’s fumble at his 15-yard line led to a Chris Boswell field goal that allowed the Steelers to escape with a 23-20 victory.

And afterward, Seattle coach Pete Carroll admitted there was little he could tell his players to ease their pain.

“I didn’t have an answer for them to make them feel better, because we lost the game,” Carroll said. “But I talked about the effort and the comeback and the grit and the guts that it takes to keep believing and keep counting on one another and keep pushing each other.”

Seattle will need all of that after falling to 2-4, with two defeats in overtime, and to last place in the NFC West, four games behind 6-0 Arizona and three behind the 5-1 Rams.

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Asked how the Seahawks get off the mat and make something of their season, Carroll said, “We have no choice. There’s no choice. … We have no other way of doing it.”

Steelers 23, Seahawks 20 (OT)

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Pressed hardest to put this one in the rearview mirror will be Smith, who until his fateful fumble had been everything the Seahawks had said he’d be all week. Smith was flawless in leading a late drive to tie the score, and until his fumble he had avoided big mistakes.

But maybe Smith just wanted it too much when he burst up the middle to avoid pressure. He instead was tackled by T.J. Watt and lost the ball, recovered by Devin Bush to set up the 37-yard field goal with 2:50 left in overtime.

“They really, really deserved a chance to win this game,” Carroll said. “And unfortunately they made one more play than we did.”

Smith said he simply didn’t see Watt and added that “I had two hands on the ball, was getting ready to tuck it and get as many yards as I could and slide.”

“I put that on me,” Smith said. “I vow to be better.”

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The stunning defeat spoiled a gutty comeback from a 14-0 halftime deficit that had Seattle looking dead in the water.

For 30 minutes, every fear about life without Wilson seemed to be coming true.

Seattle couldn’t move it, held to just 9 yards on 10 plays in the second quarter — all of which were called passes — and the defense appeared to be getting beaten down after a solid start, resulting in a two-touchdown halftime deficit.

But then the Seahawks decided to give Smith some help.

They had 175 yards in the third quarter, with 110 on the ground — more than they had rushed for in four of five games this year.

Alex Collins had 79 yards in the third quarter and finished with 101, becoming the first Seahawk to rush for 100 yards since Chris Carson on Dec. 15, 2019 at Carolina.

But just when the Seahawks’ offense seemed as if it could carry them to victory, it all came crashing down.

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Not that Seattle didn’t have earlier chances to salt the game away.

Seattle had a golden opportunity to take the lead when it was ruled that Ben Roethlisberger had fumbled while attempting to bring back a pump fake, giving the Seahawks the ball at the Steelers’ 35-yard line with 11:32 left.

But Seattle couldn’t move it and had to punt.

Then, safety Jamal Adams dropped an potential interception that might have been a pick-six later in the fourth quarter. That drop helped set up Boswell’s 52-yard field goal with 1:30 left, putting the Steelers back up 20-17.

Adams did not speak to media after the game. Carroll, asked if Adams didn’t see the pass.

“I don’t know,” Carroll said. “It was really loud, though. It smacked him pretty good.”

But while an Adams pick maybe could have ended the game in Seattle’s favor, only to see the Steelers then take the lead, Smith gamely led a Wilson-esque drive to tie it.

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With Seattle taking over at its 25 with 1:30 left, Smith first hit Will Dissly for 7 yards.

DeeJay Dallas, subbing for an injured Collins, then picked up 6 yards.

A pass for 7 yards to Dallas was followed by a timeout with 52 seconds remaining.

Another pass to Dallas picked up 2 yards.

Smith then hit DK Metcalf on the sideline for 11 yards to the Steelers’ 42 with 22 seconds remaining.

A pass to Dallas then took the ball to the 34.

Eight seconds left. Dallas fumbled at the end of the play, but the ball fortuitously bounced right back in his hands.

A pass to Metcalf took it to the 28 — that was Smith’s sixth completion in six attempts on the final drive other than a spike.

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But Metcalf fumbled the ball, and it fell behind him where Freddie Swain fell on it at the 26.

With no timeouts left the Seahawks had to hurry to spike the ball, and Smith appeared to get it off with one second left.

Then more chaos ensued as officials stopped the clock to review the Metcalf reception.

After the play was upheld, Smith got the spike to stop the clock with two seconds left, bringing on kicker Jason Myers.

Myers, who had missed two of his past four field-goal attempts coming into the game, calmly hit it from 43 yards to tie it at 20 as time ran out.

If only OT had gone as well.