The Steelers got some good news on the health front at least, prior to today’s game. With the inactives being announced, the only player who is not a healthy scratch is fullback Roosevelt Nix, who may miss multiple games due to injury. The other inactives include Fred Johnson, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Gentry, Isaiah Buggs, Jayrone Elliott, and Justin Layne.
That means center Maurkice Pouncey and cornerback Joe Haden are active. Both finished the week as full participants in practice, but Haden said that he was unsure if he would be able to go.
According to pre-game reports, Vince Williams will be the one to start the game with the green dot today, an obvious indication that the intention is for him to get a lot of work against a run-heavy Seattle team. It’s also been reported that the Steelers intend to use rookie running back Benny Snell as their short-yardage runner after the offense struggled mightily in short-yardage situations last Sunday.
The Steelers received the ball to begin the game, Ryan Switzer fielding the opening kickoff for a touchback. On first down form the 25, out of a five-wide set, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Vance McDonald in the right flat for a short five-yard gain. Now second down, in a two-tight end set, James Conner got the carry but was stopped off the right side for maybe a yard, if that. On third down, Roethlisberger again an empty backfield, Roethlisberger was sacked by Brandon Jackson after he was unable to escape the pocket, Alejandro Villanueva on the loss. Jordan Berry’s punt was fielded at the 28 and returned about 10 yards.
Russell Wilson threw on first down, looking for a back-shoulder throw and D.K. Metcalf making the catch against Steven Nelson for 15. He looked for Metcalf again behind, incomplete. Mike Hilton came in on the blitz. Following a two-yard gain, Wilson was buried by T.J. Watt for his first sack of the season, so both teams’ first drives ended with a third-down sack. An inside move with Stephon Tuitt on the outside stunt. Punting from the 48, Switzer called for a fair catch at the 12 as the ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
Beginning their second drive, Roethlisberger again initiated the drive with a pass to McDonald, this for seven yards. Roethlisberger fell as he threw on second down, incomplete. Now third and three quickly, empty set, he had the ball batted down at the line of scrimmage. Jadeveon Clowney on the pass defensed. Berry’s second punt was fielded at the 21, where he was tackled by Johnny Holton. He caught it on a bounce.
Watt made the tackle on first down for no gain on a run. The Seahawks were flagged for an illegal block in the back, the Steelers accepting to make it first and 29 instead. However, Chris Carson found the lane on the right side for 22 yards. Mark Barron and Vince Williams were not in position with the pulling left guard leading the way. A tackle after a short gain was wiped out again by a hold to make it first and 20. Terrell Edmunds had an ugly whiff on an open-field tackle on second and 14 on a short pass to allow a long first down rather than setting up a third and long. Edmunds is off to a bad start to his second season.
Following a short gain by Rashad Penny, the rush got home on second down again, this time Tuitt getting the sack. Barron blitzed to help influence that play, forcing Wilson to his left, where Tuitt defeated the center. Now third and 13, Tuitt got home yet again for his second sack in a row and the team’s third of the first 10 minutes to cap off yet another drive. The Steelers got nice pressure on the punt, but couldn’t get home. Switzer muffed the catch, but was able to pick it up quickly, with a short return.
Zach Banner checked in as an eligible to start the Steelers’ third drive from the 13. Conner picked up seven off the right side, but Banner was flagged for holding. Now first and 16, McDonald broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage to pick up about seven, his third reception of the first quarter. Now second and eight officially, Roethlisberger showed patience for the pressure to clear out, getting the ball out to Conner for seven, setting up a third and short–where the offense was garbage a week ago. Benny Snell converted, had room, broke a tackle in open space and ripped off a 23-yard run. Good blocking, but he made half of that run.
Conner picked up two yards on the following play near midfield. Going with five receivers next, Roethlisberger couldn’t find anybody open despite pulling the ball down and holding it for an extended period of time, ultimately throwing incomplete in Switzer’s direction. Now third and eight, Roethlisberger just overthrew a diving Holton on a long cross, who was open past coverage. The ball did go through his hands, but it would have been an excellent play. Berry’s third punt was fair caught at the 16.
Meanwhile, Vince Williams was declared doubtful to return with a hamstring injury. So it’s Devin Bush for the rest of the way. Who calls the defense now? Watt did it last week.
Carson once again found room around the right end for 17 to begin the Seahawks’ third drive, Haden forcing him out with a shoulder. Off play action, Wilson hit his tight end for a big play, but a hold wiped it all out. There were offsetting penalties. On the following play, Carson lost the ball, scooped up by Barron, who returned it for a would-be score, only an illegal block in the back at the end of the run prevented that. Watt with the forced fumble. Sean Davis was called for the unnecessary block. Watt had six forced fumbles last year, most of them on sacks.
Regardless, it’s first down for the offense from Seattle’s 22. Conner was stopped for no gain on the final play of the first quarter. McDonald went through the concussion protocol but was cleared and returned to the lineup.
On second down, following a neutral zone infraction, Roethlisberger looked for Diontae Johnson coming open over the middle, but it was off his hands. A bit high, but a drop. Now third and five, he lobbed a ball up to Jaylen Samuels, catching but out of bounds. A flag for pass interference was called, however. The foul put the ball on the one-yard line. It was a good call, but the Seahawks challenged, and of course the ruling stood. Conner got the ball from the one and plowed his way in, leaving his feet, for the Steelers’ first touchdown of 2019, in the sixth quarter. 7-0 with points off of a turnover.
Beginning the following drive with a touchback, Wilson is now playing with a deficit. Four wide, it was a swing pass to Carson for a nine-yarder. After converting on the ground, it was back to the air, Wilson overthrowing everyone, in Metcalf’s direction. Watt had great backside pursuit for a tackle, but was injured on the effort, coming off the field after the play. Now third and nine, however, Wilson found Malik Turner for 15 and a conversion.
Around midfield, Edmunds recorded a pass defensed deep downfield out of the slot against Tyler Lockett. Great play for a guy who’s had a rough start. He made the open-field tackle on Lockett on second down for an eight-yard gain. Now third and three, Watt back out on the field, it was an easy conversion for Penny up for about six.
After another five-yarder, Penny was limited to three to set up another third and short. Needing a short and a half, however, the defense this time put him on his backside behind the line of scrimmage, Cameron Heyward on the tackle but Daniel McCullers really setting up the play. Unfortunately, McCullers was flagged for a personal foul on the field goal attempt, a stunningly foolish play.
Now at the 14, the offense back out there, Wilson immediately went over the top to his tight end to score and tie the game. So the Steelers held a lead for about six minutes. Devin Bush was beat down the seam.
Following another exhilarating touchback, the drive began with a short run by Conner for about three. He was stopped at the line of scrimmage on second down. Now third and six, given a yard even though it came after the whistle…Roethlisberger had his second pass deflected at the line, this by Bobby Wagner, and again on third down. Holton forced a fair catch on the punt.
Wilson was brought down for the fourth sack of the game on the second play of the drive, Javon Hargrave getting the credit, with Tuitt also in there. On third and 15, Davis made the tackle on Turner well shy of the first. Diontae Johnson was put back to field the next punt, interestingly. Getting the rookie out there. Fielded at the 17, he got a decent return before being chased out of bounds after 11 yards.
From the 28, JuJu Smith-Schuster was targeted for the first time, the ball off his outstretched hands, but he was clearly held on the play by the jersey as he ran upfield. It should be pass interference since it continued after the throw, but it wasn’t called. This time it went back to Smith-Schuster for about 12, his first catch of the day in almost 20 minutes.
At the 45, it was James Washington, snagging a ball thrown behind him, for a first down, two in a row. And a third, this to Smith-Schuster for 15. On the following play, Conner picked up six with some second-effort running. Roethlisberger was shown clutching his elbow after the previous throw. On second and four from the 22, he looked for Smith-Schuster in the end zone, but the third-year receiver made the catch coming down out of bounds. Now third and four, Roethlisberger again holding his arm, he looked for Smith-Schuster on a quick completion for four yards, but McDonald was flagged for a pick. On third and 14, empty set, Roethlisberger threw short to Conner, who only got about six. Chris Boswell’s field goal did give the Steelers the lead back at 10-7 from 41.
Boswell’s kickoff bounced at the two and forward, allowing the coverage to get down the field and make the play to give the Seahawks bad starting field position. From the, Tyson Alualu made the tackle after a two-yard gain, but an illegal block in the back brought it back to the seven. Backed up, however, Wilson found Turner for 30.
C.J. Prosise was tackled by Barron after a five-yard reception. Lockett broke a tackle by Cameron Sutton just enough to cross the first-down line before going out of bounds. At midfield, Wilson was under pressure by Bud Dupree, but stepped out and found Prosise for nine yards, out of bounds with 1:20 to play. After the ground conversion, the clock stopped with D.J. Fluker, the right guard, down injured. That’ll be a 10-second runoff with Seattle having no timeouts.
Sutton made the tackle in open field for a loss after the injury timeout, inbounds. Now he made the tackle on the other side of the field on Lockett as the clock keeps ticking. Third and 10, Wilson looked for Metcalf against Nelson, incomplete, two flags being thrown on Metcalf–offensive pass interference, and a facemask. So that’s a 15-yard loss, out of field goal range. On third and 25 from the 50, Wilson hit a short 10-yard completion with three seconds to play. Seattle’s 58-yard attempt from the left hash was wide left, no good. So the official record is still 53, going into halftime.