The (6-4) Pittsburgh Steelers will play the (5-5) Seattle Seahawks on the road Sunday and below are seven key things that I believe they will need to do in the game in order to come away with another big win that would keep them the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff race.
Oh, Mr. Wilson – Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson could wind up being the biggest x-factor in Sunday’s game. In fact, what he does best, making pass plays happen outside of the pocket, is something the Steelers defense has struggled defending over the course of the last few seasons. Additionally, Wilson is still not afraid to run with the football and that’s evidence by his 73 rushes for 385 yards so far this season. 20 of those 73 rushes/scrambles have resulted in first downs and 5 of them have come on third downs. The Steelers must contain Wilson inside the pocket Sunday as much as possible and make him deliver the football down field from there as well.
Lockdown Lockett – Looking for another x-factor in this game when it comes to the Seahawks offense? No, it’s not running back Thomas Rawls, in my opinion. Instead, it’s rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who is not only quickly turning into a reliable pass catcher, but also one of the league’s better return men. Lockett scored twice last week for the Seahawks and with fellow wide receiver Doug Baldwin currently nursing a minor ankle injury, the rookie might be targeted quite a bit against the Steelers.
Eat, Tuitt, Eat – The Seahawks offensive line has been dismal at times so far this season and with right tackle Garry Gilliam and right guard J.R. Sweezy both currently dealing with minor injuries, Steelers left defensive end Stephon Tuitt will be expected to have a great game against them. Tuitt should be fully recovered from the knee sprain that slowed him down several weeks ago and with him coming off of a week of rest during the bye, it will be very disappointing if he isn’t able to provide multiple pressures on Sunday.
Brown Needs To Get His – Will Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman follow Brown around most the game? Even if he does, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will need to go to him quite a bit on Sunday. Brown is coming off of two outstanding games and the Steelers offense will likely need at least another 100 yards receiving out of their top pass catcher on Sunday to win this game.
No Giveaway Points – As I’ve mentioned several times this past week, the Seahawks defense has only registered 4 interceptions so far this season and none of those have come from their cornerbacks. Additionally, the Seahawks have only managed to score 21 points off of turnovers all season. So, the last the thing the Steelers offense needs to do on Sunday is give the Seahawks any short field situations so that they can add to those totals.
Limited Hidden Yardage – Not only is Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls a capable replacement for the inured Marshawn Lynch when it comes to gaining yardage between the tackles on inside zone runs, as evidenced by his 6 yards per carry average, he’s also averaging 3.3 yards after contact. The Steelers defense absolutely needs to get Rawls down on the ground quickly when he gets to the second level and the same goes for the secondary when passes are completed to the Seahawks wide receivers. The Steelers did great in that area when they beat the Arizona Cardinals several weeks ago and they’ll likely need a repeat performance of that effort on Sunday in order to beat the Seahawks on the road.
Red Zone, Seven Zone – In the Steelers Week 10 win over the Cleveland Browns, their offense only converted 1 of their 6 red zone opportunities. Two weeks prior to that, they converted just 1 of 3 red zone trips into touchdowns in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Seahawks defense allowed 9 of 13 red zone trips to result in touchdowns in their first five games of the season. In their last five games, however, they’ve only allowed 9 of 20 red zone trips to end in touchdowns. While the Seahawks have improved in that area of the field defensively, they’re still not great, so the Steelers offense absolutely will be expected to convert for than half of their trips inside the 20-yard-line into touchdowns.