First off, I’d like to wish Steeler Nation (and anyone reading this) a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope all of you have a great day filled with family, friends, food, and football.
I think I speak for a majority of NFL fans when I say this matchup is going to be great. Well, at least I hope it is, for Steeler Nation’s sake.
The Steelers are heading into CenturyLink Field with a 6-4 record and plenty of rest. The Black & Gold are coming off a bye-week, which couldn’t have come at a better time. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a mild ankle sprain against the Oakland Raiders three weeks ago. He played the back-up role a week later against the Cleveland Browns, eventually came into the game, passed for 379 yards, and threw 3 touchdowns. He did all of this on a bum ankle, so the week off was definitely needed.
I think the biggest question going into this game is our pass defense. The Steelers pass defense is currently ranked 28th in the league, with an average of 278.4 yards given up per game. Against the Browns, the Steelers pass defense gave up 372 yards to Johnny Manziel. They’ll be facing a better, more experienced quarterback in Russell Wilson. There are also more weapons at Wilson’s disposal. I obviously want our pass defense to get better, but I’ll take them giving up passing yards if they keep the opposition out of the end zone.
The Seahawks don’t have any “elite” receivers, but they have some good ones. One receiver the Steelers have to pay special attention to is Tyler Lockett. This rookie out of Kansas State has made his presence felt in Seattle with 25 receptions, 308 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns. He also have returned 19 kick-offs for 460 yards and 1 touchdown. It seems that this guy could be placed out wide or in the slot. Our defense needs to play smart in handling this rookie.
Obviously the Steelers need to pay extra attention to TE Jimmy Graham. Graham’s numbers don’t scream like they did in New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked. So far this season Graham only has 44 receptions, 530 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns. When Seattle made the trade for this elite TE, everyone and their mothers thought Graham would pick up where left off last season (889 rec. yards, 85 receptions, and 10 touchdowns), but that hasn’t been the case. We can’t have our defense look at that comparison and let him run free.
Seattle has a pretty good defense, plus they have a pretty cool nickname. The Steelers offense is going to have to fight for every yard in this game. The Legion of Boom ranks 2nd in total defense so far this season, with an average of 303.6 yards given up per game. They rank 3rd in the league in points given up, with an average of 19.2 given up per game. Their turnover numbers aren’t as eye popping as they once were. The Seahawks defense ranks dead last in interceptions with 4, non of which have been returned for touchdowns. The Legion of Boom has found ways to get turnovers elsewhere. They have committed 11 forced fumbles, 3 of which have been returned for a touchdown. Out of those 11 FF, the LOB has only lost 4 of them.
Nov 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) and defensive end Cliff Avril (56) react during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
One in game matchup that a lot of people will be watching is Antonio Brown and Richard Sherman. This is the kind of thing that the NFL lives for, it’s obviously great for promotion and the game itself. Two great athletes who committed to their crafts meeting face-to-face. Since entering the league in 2011, Sherman has 258 total tackles, 24 interceptions (2 of them were returned for touchdowns), and 5 forced fumbles. His best season was in 2013 when he recorded 8 interceptions, 1 touchdown, and 125 interception return yards. These numbers are a far cry from his numbers so far this season. Sherman has no interceptions this year, and no forced fumbles. Those stats are surprising, but that doesn’t mean he should be tested on every pass play.
Antonio Brown. Need I say more? I don’t need to, but I will. Number 84 is having another career year. Thus far, the 2015 season has seen Brown accumulate 1,141 receiving yards, 79 receptions, 5 touchdowns, and averaging 114.1 yards per game. AB has only had two seasons in which he didn’t crack 1,000 receiving yards, that was his rookie year in 2010-11 and the 2012-13 season. I don’t think the likes of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman get scared very often, but I’d sure be worry if I was looking at Antonio Brown and the other weapons Ben has at his disposal.
I think the biggest key for victory in this game is Ben staying upright. Not only does Seattle have a great secondary, but they also have a great front seven. Our offensive line has a tall order in DE Michael Bennett, DE Cliff Avril, DT Brandon Mebane, DT Ahtyba Rubin, LB Bruce Irvin, MLB Bobby Wanger, and LB K.J. Wright. This front seven has recorded 25 sacks so far this season. The Steelers offense must figure out ways to keep these guys back and give Ben time in the pocket. It’s never good for any quarterback to throw sooner than he wants. That usually ends up with the defense taking the ball away.
I think the Steelers win this game, but it’ll be hard. I’d like to see DeAngelo Williams get going early. This Seahawks defense gives up an average of 96.4 rushing yards per game.
With that being said, I’d like to see a heavy dose of running and passing in this game, but I don’t want to see Ben forcing anything. The LOB isn’t a defense that you want to try to force anything against. They are a ball-hawking, quick, sound, and aggressive defense, but they can be exploited and beaten.
Here we go, Steelers! Here we go!