PITTSBURGH — In the first game in a decade without star QB Russell Wilson, the Seahawks’ stirring comeback came up short in a 23-20 overtime defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
The Seahawks fall to 2-4 and four full games out of first place in the NFC West.
Three immediate impressions from the Seahawks’ comeback:
Watt just happened?
T.J. Watt happened.
The Steelers star pass rusher spoiled the Seahawks comeback hopes twice in overtime, sacking Geno Smith on Seattle’s first OT possession and then striping Smith of the ball on the first play of the Seahawks’ last OT possession.
That set the Steelers up deep in Seattle territory and gave Chris Boswell an easy look at the game-winning 37-yard field goal.
This is a crushing blow for the Seahawks, who after a miserable first half gave themselves chances late to take the lead.
Up until Seattle’s final snap, Smith had done his job. He gave the Seahawks a chance Sunday night.
Smith became the first QB other than Wilson to start for the Seahawks in a decade. No, he wasn’t perfect against the Steelers.
And he didn’t need to be.
The Seahawks, for the first time in a decade, were without star QB Russell Wilson (broken finger).
They were also without starting running back Chris Carson (neck).
In the second half, they turned the offense over to Alex Collins, their backup QB who was out of the NFL at this time last year, and who was a late addition to the 53-man roster out of training camp this summer.
Trailing 14-0 at halftime, with little life and little hope on offense, the Seahawks put the fate of their season in Collins’ hands.
He carried them, becoming Seattle’s first 100-yard rusher since Carson on Dec. 15, 2019 at Carolina. He finished with 101 yards on 20 carries.
The Seahawks scored their first points of the game on the opening drive of the second half, marching 75 yards on 10 plays to cut their deficit to 14-7.
Of their 10 plays, nine were runs — and eight of those were handoffs to Alex Collins, who gained 61 yards and capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run.
Smith was efficient for much of the night. He got tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly involved, finding Everett for a 41-yard gain down to the Steelers’ 2 and then hitting Dissly for a 1-yard score, pulling the Seahawks within 17-14.
Ultimately, the Seahawks needed Smith to take care of the ball, to not put Seattle’s defense in harms’ way, to just manage the game.
He did all that for about 65 minutes, all the way up until his final snap.
Seattle’s defense was better Sunday night. It had to be better with Russell Wilson out, and it should have been against a struggling Pittsburgh offense.
It still wasn’t good enough.
The Steelers drove 40 yards on nine plays to take the lead with 1:30 left, taking the 20-17 lead on Chris Boswell’s 52-yard field goal.
The Seahawks had held the Steelers to just a field goal in the second half before Boswell’s winning kick.
Ultimately, the Seahawks’ struggles to slow down Pittsburgh’s offense in the second quarter was Seattle’s doom.
The Steelers scored both of their touchdowns in the second quarter and converted half of their eight third-down plays in the first half to build a 14-0 lead.
The Steelers dominated time of possession 20:46 to 9:15 in the first half.
Credit the Seahawks for a turnaround in the second half, on both sides of the ball, but the defense had to do more — and it still needs to do more — with Wilson sidelined.
They were fortunate to have one takeaway on a Ben Roethlisberger fumble in the fourth quarter.
They needed more to win this game.
The game took a scary turn late in the fourth quarter when the Seahawks’ promising young edge rusher, Darrell Taylor, appeared to sustain a significant injury.
The entire Seahawks team huddled at midfield around Taylor as he lay on the turf with 3:10 remaining in the game.
Action was stopped for 10 minutes as Taylor was stabilized on a stretcher and then carted off the field.
The nature of the injury was not immediately known.
Taylor, the second-year defensive end out of Tennessee, came into the game as the Seahawks’ leader in sacks, with four.
He registered the Seahawks’ only hit of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger late in the third quarter, forcing an incomplete pass.
Taylor, a second-round pick in 2020, missed his entire rookie season while recovering from a leg injury. He emerged this season as one of the bright spots on Seattle’s defense.