The Pittsburgh Steelers defense had a Jekyll-and-Hyde game, and it cost them in the end. After holding the Seattle Seahawks to seven points in the first half, they allowed three consecutive touchdowns in the second. Then their inability to stop Russell Wilson on the final drive sealed the defeat.
Even with the defense able to force two fumbles, the first by T.J. Watt and then Mike Hilton influencing a botched handoff that kept the Steelers alive late in the game, the defense had 5:34 to get the ball back to the offense and could not.
They ran out the clock, all 5:34 worth, over a 12-play 51-yard drive that concluded with three kneeldowns after they were able to convert on fourth and one on a two-yard Chris Carson carry. And that was only set up by allowing Wilson to scramble for a 15-yard gain on third and 16 the play before. Wilson also extended the drive earlier with a 10-yard on second and nine when there was 3:24 left to play.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler and several players talked in the week leading up to the game about how important rush-lane integrity would be in containing Wilson, who doesn’t look to run, but is willing to do so in critical moments when he has to.
Despite the fact that they were supremely conscious of this fact, the defense was unable to counter it when it was necessary. Bud Dupree had the best chance of making a stop on Wilson on that scramble on third and 16, but was unable to do so.
It continued a theme of poor tackling throughout much of the afternoon, the most egregious being the missed tackle attempt by Anthony Chickillo on a 37-yard touchdown run on third and two. Chickillo had a shot at running back Rashad Penny in the backfield, but was unable to make the play. After that incident, it looked like Olasunkanmi Adeniyi got his first defensive snaps of the season.
Ultimately, however, while this game had many twists and turns, it comes down to the 5:34 the defense had to work with in order to get the ball back and failed to do so. Even with the turnover they came up with the give the offense a second short field of the game—Mason Rudolph hit Vance McDonald for a touchdown from the three-yard line on the next play—Butler’s unit’s failure to come up with a stop, particularly on third and 16, is what will define this loss for me.