PITTSBURGH — In style, if not always in substance, Game 2 showed the true template for what the Seahawks want to be in 2019.
After being surprisingly stymied on the ground by the Bengals in the opener, held to 72 yards, they more than doubled that total against the Steelers, with 151 yards and an average of 4.6 per attempt.
And other than a 45-yard gain on a flea-flicker, the Seahawks didn’t allow a pass of more than 17 yards against what has been one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL for years.
OK, so two lost fumbles are not part of the recipe. Nor are 10 penalties, and some shaky early pass protection, which Seattle mitigated by going to a quick passing game for most of the final three quarters. And the Seahawks are going to need more of a pass rush (get back next week, Ziggy Ansah).
But most of the rest from start to finish — including running out the final 5 minutes, 34 seconds to sew up the victory — helped soothe a lot of the angst elicited from the closer-than-expected Week 1 shave against the Bengals.
“We were battle-tested today and we found a way to win a great game,’’ said quarterback Russell Wilson. That pretty much summed it up.
On to the grades.
Wilson couldn’t really have been better, pinpoint on his passes throughout and then using his legs to help sew up the game late. That might frustrate fans at times that Wilson seems to wait until he really needs the run to use it, but it’s a way of limiting the number of hits he takes. The larger point: That ability is always there, Wilson showing again Sunday how much of a weapon it is for Seattle in the most critical moments. Also, give a healthy assist to Brian Schottenheimer for aiding in the offensive shift following the first quarter.
Two lost fumbles, and three for the season, by Chris Carson are hard to ignore. Coach Pete Carroll absolved Carson of some blame for the second one, noting how quickly Pittsburgh’s Mike Hilton broke through the line to disrupt the play (in fact, it was officially ruled as an aborted play and Wilson charged with the fumble). Regardless, even one was too many and as Carroll said, it needs to be cleaned up. Otherwise, Seattle’s 1-2 punch of Carson and Rashaad Penny had a nice day — a combined 122 yards on 25 carries. C.J. Prosise also had a nice series in the two-minute drill to end the first half.
After just two targets last week, Tyler Lockett bounced back with 12, making a career-high 10 receptions. Malik Turner also had a career-high with three catches for 54 yards. And what to say about DK Metcalf? It appeared that the Steelers took away some of his sideline routes, but he still found a way to make one of the game’s key plays with the 28-yard touchdown on third down in the fourth quarter.
Will Dissly is all the way back, with five receptions for 50 yards and two touchdowns. And one of the day’s most underrated plays might have been Nick Vannett’s 13-yard catch on third-and-10 to set up Seattle’s first touchdown in the third quarter, which gave it a lead it never relinquished.
There were some rough moments early before the Seahawks went to more of a quick passing attack to mitigate the Steelers’ rush. The right side of Seattle’s line seemed to particularly struggle — Germain Ifedi and D.J. Fluker each were called for holding twice. Ethan Pocic also had a holding penalty as did Mike Iupati. But Seattle’s run blocking was far better than last week, and Wilson had time in the second half when he really needed it.
Seattle did a nice job on Pittsburgh’s running game most of the time — the Steelers picked up 37 of their 81 rushing yards on two plays, held to 44 on the other 14. And as Carroll said, the line seemed to make life tougher for Ben Roethlisberger than the stats suggest. Seattle had only one sack and two quarterback hits, but the Seahawks also batted down two of Big Ben’s passes before he departed. Seattle, though, will need to get a more consistent pass rush soon.
Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks made a handful of open-field tackles on receivers as the Seahawks kept most of Pittsburgh’s gains to a minimum. Kendricks was called for an interference that helped set up the Steelers’ first touchdown, but otherwise, it was a solid day for this group.
Vast improvement here this week, with Seattle making two substantial lineup changes with Lano Hill starting at safety in place of injured Tedric Thompson and Jamar Taylor going at nickel in place of rookie Ugo Amadi. Seattle went with a bit more nickel with Taylor back in the fold, and the Seahawks allowed just 5.1 yards per pass play — a full 2 yards per pass less than the previous week — despite the flea-flicker. Hill had one of the game’s biggest plays, the interception on the two-point attempt, and Bradley McDougald had an interception to set up Seattle’s first score in the second half.
Jason Myers missed a 58-yard field goal — but that’s a long kick in a tough venue for kicking. The longest made field goal in Heinz Field history is 53. Penny didn’t have much room to run on two kickoff returns. But the rest was positive — Michael Dickson averaged 51.3 yards per punt, including a 59-yarder in the third quarter that pushed the Steelers back and set up the series that resulted in McDougald’s interception.