We’re going to learn a lot about the 2019 Seahawks in the next two games.
A trip to Pittsburgh followed by a home game against New Orleans. Two opportunities to make a statement but also two very challenging contests.
Beating Cincinnati by a solitary point was so incredibly vital with these two games next on the schedule.
For now I want to focus on the game this weekend against the Steelers. It’d be very easy to look at their 33-3 defeat in New England and think they’ve regressed. Admittedly they’ve lost Antonio Brown this year (they didn’t technically have Le’Veon Bell in 2018). Overall, though, they remain a strong and competitive opponent on paper.
The Steelers are 8-2 in home openers over the last 10 years. They’ve also shown a knack for bouncing back after difficult road starts.
For example — they were heavily beaten (35-7) at AFC North rivals Baltimore in 2011. They responded by trouncing the Seahawks 24-0 in their home opener the following week. In 2012 they lost 31-19 to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They then handsomely defeated the New York Jets 27-19 in week two.
Last time they started a season with a defeat in New England (2015) they hammered the 49ers 43-18 the following week at home.
Their only two losses in home openers over the last decade were against Tennessee in 2013 (they started the season 0-4 before recovering to 8-8) and last year against the Chiefs (where Patrick Mahomes announced his arrival leading Kansas City to a 42-37 shoot-out win).
Steelers home openers over the last 10 years
2009 — Tennessee (W 13-10 OT)
2010 — Atlanta (W 15-9 OT)
2011 — Seattle (W 24-0) (Lost opening game 35-7 @ Baltimore)
2012 — NY Jets (W 27-10) (Lost opening game 31-19 @ Denver)
2013 — Tennessee (L 16-9) (Started 0-4 before finishing 8-8)
2014 — Cleveland (W 30-27)
2015 — San Francisco (W 43-18) (Lost opening game 28-21 @ NE)
2016 — Cincinnati (W 24-16)
2017 — Minnesota (W 26-9)
2018 — Kansas City (L 42-37)
You can learn a lot from team trends. A slow start for the Seahawks isn’t unusual. Sunday’s ‘tighter than expected’ win against the Bengals is par for the course. Mike at Beast Pode wrote an excellent piece discussing why the game was close and it’s well worth checking out.
For the Steelers it isn’t unusual for them to lose on the road to start a season and then rebound the following week.
The Seahawks were also shredded by Ben Roethlisberger the last time the teams met in 2015. It’s hard to believe that game was four years ago. Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards against a secondary that included Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. The Steelers should’ve won the game and didn’t due to highly avoidable errors (a bizarre Big Ben interception, a poorly executed fake field goal, going for a field goal late in the game).
Seattle took away Pittsburgh’s running game (DeAngelo Williams had only eight carries for 29 yards) and were still carved up (much like they were at times last week).
There is one big difference between the 2015 Steelers and the 2019 version though. Speed. Markus Wheaton gashed the secondary for 201 yards on nine catches. Martavis Bryant added 69 yards and Sherman did an excellent job restricting Antonio Brown to 51 yards. Pittsburgh doesn’t have that kind of speed at receiver any more. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington are both 4.54 runner’s. They’re also both adept at making big plays downfield and competing — so this will still be a real challenge for Seattle’s secondary.
The concern has to be that even if Pittsburgh aren’t able to run the ball, they’ll still be able to exploit Seattle’s structured defense. They might do a more effective job than the Bengals of finishing and they’re at home — not on the road. Pressuring Roethlisberger will be vital on top of avoiding some of the mistakes we saw in the secondary against Cincinnati. This will be a big game for the cornerback’s and safety’s — the pass rush has to be consistent too. Roethlisberger can be provoked to make mistakes. He’s also approaching his 38th birthday in March and isn’t quite as nimble as he used to be. He’s still elusive — but they’ve got to make life difficult for him or he’ll likely repeat Dalton’s production from week one.
The Seahawks are going to have to score points and stay out of their own way. If they can’t run the ball — and Pittsburgh will likely dedicate resources to stopping the run — they’ll need to find other ways to put points on the board. Seattle’s ability to execute their offensive plan and dictate the tone of the game will be especially important this week. If it ends up being a shoot-out like 2015, they’ll need answers and a Plan B.
This is a very difficult second game for Seattle. Winning in Pittsburgh is tough. If they pull it off to go 2-0 — the contest against New Orleans will feel a little bit like week two in 2013. It’ll be an opportunity to flex to the rest of the NFC and make a statement.
They’ll need to play a lot better than they did against the Bengals to achieve that though on both sides of the ball.
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