PITTSBURGH — If the Seahawks came precariously close to losing control of a game that was theirs for the taking from the start, Russell Wilson never did.
In first putting Seattle in position to win the game Sunday, and then preserving it when some of their own mistakes put victory in peril, Wilson showed why he’s worth every bit of the $35 million a year the Seahawks are paying him to play quarterback, the most of any player in the NFL’s 100-year history.
“He did whatever we needed to do to win,’’ marveled receiver Tyler Lockett after Wilson threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns to key Seattle’s 28-26 victory on the road over the Pittsburgh Steelers. “He allowed us to be successful in every single way.’’
Wilson was harried early in the game, sacked four times in the first 22 minutes.
But then he helped Seattle expertly shift its offensive game plan to one that emphasized a quick passing game, with Wilson often making checks at the line of scrimmage to change routes or play calls based on what he saw from the Steelers.
“He knew when to check to certain things,’’ Lockett said. “He knew when to run certain plays. He knew when to just hurry up and get on the line when the play clock was running. And that’s what we needed him to do.’’
They never needed Wilson more than when the offense took the field with 5:34 left after the Steelers cut the lead to two points following a 3-yard touchdown pass set up when Chris Carson lost his second fumble of the day.
The fumble came on the first play after the Seahawks had stopped the Steelers, seeming to finally have fully taken control of a game they had statistically dominated much of the day.
Heinz Field was rocking and every Seahawks fan was nervous.
But in the huddle, Wilson’s demeanor was the same as every meeting, practice and game, said tight end Will Dissly.
“He basically just refocused us,’’ Dissly said. “He said, ‘We’ve got this one drive, let’s go end the game with the ball on the field.’’’
And then Wilson followed his own lead, first completing three consecutive passes for 22 yards to pick up two quick first downs.
Then, he scrambled for 10, 9 and 15 yards to move Seattle into Steelers territory. He slid just a hair too soon on the final run, leaving Seattle with a fourth-and-one at the Pittsburgh 33 with two minutes left.
At that point, Seattle coach Pete Carroll made his own master stroke, putting Carson back in the game.
“There was nobody I was going to but Chris right there in that one,’’ Carroll said.
Running behind Seattle’s jumbo package line with George Fant in the game as an eligible receiver, Carson bulled his way for 2 yards — holding the ball as securely as a father just handed a newborn baby.
“It was a fantastic job of the guys up front just knocking them off the ball to win the game,’’ Carroll said.
Fitting, too, considering how Seattle imposed its will on the Steelers for most of the game’s 60 minutes, outgaining Pittsburgh 425 yards to 261 and outrushing the Steelers 151-81.
If not for Pittsburgh’s two short touchdown drives set up by Carson’s fumbles, the game might have been a rout.
The way Seattle’s defense controlled things early, it hardly seemed to matter that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out the second half with an elbow injury. He threw for only 75 yards in the first half as it was.
And Seattle’s offense was almost unstoppable following the change to the quick passing game in the second quarter.
“It was one of those classic ‘Take what they are giving us’ (situations),’’ Carroll said. “And put Russ really in command in the rhythm of the game.’’
Seattle scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives in the second half of 40, 75 and 75 yards with Wilson completing 14 of 16 passes for 140 yards in the final two quarters.
“I just wanted to get the ball out to our playmakers and let them do their thing,’’ Wilson said.
The last of the scoring drives was capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf that came a few plays after Wilson took a hard hit from Bud Dupree that the Seahawks thought was illegal. But Seattle got the advantage on the play, anyway, as Seattle threw a challenge flag and officials determined after a review that Lockett had been interfered with 38 yards downfield.
Wilson said he wasn’t shaken up on the play, which showed when three plays later he fired the touchdown to Metcalf on what was third-and-three.
The throw to Metcalf and the final drive capped a day when Wilson truly did whatever it took, at one point even turning into a blocker, running interference for Rashaad Penny on a 37-yard scoring run, throwing a shoulder at safety Terrell Edmunds as Penny crossed the goal line.
But Seattle’s two turnovers — as well as some other self-inflicted wounds, namely 10 penalties for 93 yards — kept the Steelers close, necessitating some last-drive Wilson magic.
Watching on the sideline, newly acquired defensive end Jadeveon Clowney just smiled.
“That’s half the reason I wanted to come (to Seattle), because of Russ,’’ Clowney said. “He makes it happen. I don’t care what the score is — it could be 100-0 — he believes. As long as you got a guy like that, a guy who never quits … I’m gonna ride with him.”
Seattle rode Wilson to its first 2-0 start since 2013 while also giving Carroll his 100th victory as Seattle’s coach (regular season and playoffs) on what was his 68th birthday. He was rewarded afterward by getting a little water bath from players.
And then, in his last act on a day when he was rarely out of step, Wilson handed Carroll the game ball.
“Really fired up just about this start,’’ Carroll said. “We have so much improvement, so many areas and ways we can get better. We are just getting warmed up.’’