The Steelers take a 10-7 lead into the second half, but it’s certainly not a comfortable one. They got their first touchdown of the season after T.J. Watt forced a fumble, recovered and returned by Mark Barron. A penalty negated a score, so the offense began at the Seattle Seahawks’ 22, where the drive ultimately culminated in a one-yard touchdown by James Conner. Jaylen Samuels earned a DPI to set up the first-and-goal play. Chris Boswell’s 41-yard make late in the half gave them the edge.
Russell Wilson found Will Dissly, his tight end, over the top of Devin Bush in the middle of the second after Daniel McCullers was flagged for a personal foul, hitting the long snapper, on a made field goal, so that was a four-point swing. Benny Snell was used on third and one, ripping off a 23-yarder.
Of prominent note, Ben Roethlisberger was holding his throwing elbow after multiple throws late in the half. He went back into the locker room, and Mason Rudolph was warming up on the sideline, but the starter returned to the sideline before the end of the half. Assuming he does return, however, it’s clearly something to monitor.
And just like that, it was announced that Rudolph will start the second half, Roethlisberger questionable to return.
The Seahawks’ returner made five tacklers miss, but was still tackled inside the 20. From the 16, Wilson’s first pass was bobbled out of bounds by Tyler Lockett. Bud Dupree recorded the run stop for a loss on second down, coming in free from the backside. On third down, Terrell Edmunds made the tackle on Lockett in open field for seven to force a punt. Diontae Johnson again back to receive the punt instead of Ryan Switzer. The ball bounced out of bounds around the 20.
Rudolph’s first NFL snap comes at 13:23 in the third quarter of the second game of his second year, a handoff to Conner for two yards. With run-heavy personnel in, 13, Rudolph attempted a running back screen, incomplete. Now third and eight, incredibly, Donte Moncrief dropped yet another pass, off his hands on a back shoulder, leading to an interception off the bounce. So it goes from what should have been a conversion on third and eight to an interception for Rudolph thanks to Moncrief, who is off to a phenomenally bad start to his Steelers career.
Off the cat blitz, Mike Hilton made the tackle for a loss of two. From the 42 on second down, Wilson connected with D.K. Metcalf for a first down. Sean Davis was injured on the play, Kameron Kelly replacing him. Looking like a shoulder injury. At the 25, Chris Carson was stuffed for no gain. Steven Nelson came up with the big pass breakup on second down. Now third and 10, however, Wilson found his tight end down the seam for a first down. Davis, back in, laid a big hit, but held on. At the 12 now, it was Wilson to Dissly again for their second touchdown of the afternoon, Seattle taking a 14-10 lead.
Moncrief on the sideline, a two-tight end set, Rudolph’s third career pass went to Xavier Grimble, incomplete, possibly a drop. On second and 10, Conner found a hole for 14. Off the flea-flicker, Rudolph completed to Smith-Schuster for 46 yards, his first completion for the second-year quarter. And the play gives Smith-Schuster over 2498 receiving yards for his career, needing two to become the youngest player to do so.
Quickly in a third and long after the big play, however, Smith-Schuster caught the ball short, getting five. Chris Boswell made it 14-13.
After 15-yarder to Lockett, a five-yard run to the 45 made it second and five. Wilson swung it out for Carson in the right flat for a first down. On third and two, Penny cut back and found a hole for a 37-yard touchdown run to make it 21-13. Anthony Chickillo missed the tackle in the backfield.
Now down eight, Rudolph started his next drive completing for five to Vance McDonald. Off play action, he found Smith-Schuster for about seven. That put him over 2500 yards for his career. Jaylen Samuels had a good head of steam on a screen for about 14 to midfield.
Switzer was wrestled down for no gain on the next play. McDonald couldn’t get away from Mychal Kendricks for a yard to end the third quarter. Johnson slipped but still made the catch for 17 for the big conversion. So it’s the rookie helping to save the day.
From the 31, it was Conner backing his way ahead for about five. Rudolph threw into double coverage looking for Smith-Schuster in the end zone, probably not a good decision to attempt that throw. Now third and five, Rudolph scrambled, showing some good athleticism to avoid a tackle for seven yards. Nice play.
Inside the 20, it’s Samuels finding the edge for nice little gain, Conner reportedly out injured for the time being. On second and three, it’s another Samuels carry for about four, setting up a first and goal.
Four wide now, Rudolph found McDonald for the catch-and-run score. McDonald lined up in the backfield on the play. Great patience for the second-year quarterback. Now on the two-point try, Rudolph was intercepted in the back of the end zone to keep it a two-point game at 21-19.
Davis left the game for a second time, Kelly back in for him. Penny was forced out of bounds by Mark Barron after a short reception to open the following drive. Dissly with the conversion over the middle on second down. After a false start, and then a hold, it was first and 25. Stephon Tuitt was held. Back to the 22, Bush did a good job of recovering to make the tackle after five. Wilson off play action fired downfield into double coverage, incomplete. Dupree got away with a hit to the helmet of Wilson, though he was out of the pocket. Pete Carroll challenged for defensive pass interference, his second challenge for pass interference of the game. He lost the first one easily. He won the second, Edmunds flagged.
Now all the way down to the Steelers’ 40, a four-yard run and then three made it third and three. On third down, Wilson hit D.K. Metcalf for the touchdown with Edmunds in coverage. Not sure why a strong safety is covering a wide receiver. But it’s now 28-19 and for the first time a two-possession game, with 7:15 to go.
Samuels escaped the line of scrimmage for seven to begin the subsequent drive. He found James Washington for the conversion for another completion, now 11 for 15 after missing his first three, including a drop. From the 43, he was able to get the ball out just to avoid a sack. He fired incomplete to the right under pressure in Johnson’s direction. Now third down, however, he threw well behind Smith-Schuster heading to the right sideline, incomplete. A five-play drive taking 1:13. A good punt by Berry downed at the 11, however.
For the second time in the game, however, the defense forced a fumble, this time Bush recovering, returning it to inside the five-yard line. Hilton came in on the blitz. It gives the Steelers a lifeline to save this game if they can get a quick score here.
The ball officially placed on the three, it was a quick play-action touchdown pass, his second touchdown of the game, and now accounting for both of Rudolph’s scored. Boswell made it 28-26 with 5:34 to play, and now they’re back in it.
Bush missed a tackle on Dissly for an 11-yard gain to start the response drive. This time a four-yard reception as the clock ticks past five minutes remaining. On second and six, Wilson found Lockett for the first down. Penny was stuffed on the next play, now under four minutes to go. The defense left a running lane open, and Wilson took it for a first down, though he slid awkwardly.
Penny again stuffed after a two-yard gain, the Steelers using their first timeout at 2:21. Another Wilson scramble for a first down was wiped out by a holding call, fortunately. Heyward was held. Now second and 18, Wilson handed off to Penny for a short gain, another timeout at 2:11. On third and 16, Wilson scrambled and picked up about 15, so the defense technically holds as the two-minute warning hits, but it puts the Seahawks in field goal range at the 33 if they’re feeling adventurous.
Passing that up, Carroll elected to go for it and converted, essentially sealing the game and sending the Steelers to 0-2 on the season.