Heyward Knows Defense Must Be On High-Alert Facing Geno Smith

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the luxury of not facing Russell Wilson Sunday night, the first game of Wilson’s career he’s going to miss. But Cam Heyward isn’t taking facing a backup like Geno Smith lightly. If anything, it’s putting him on even higher alert. That’s what he told reporters Thursday.

“For us, Geno hasn’t played that long,” Heyward said during his media session. “It’s a little bit different from Russell, so you gotta be on your P’s and Q’s. For us, we’ve had a good body of work and we’ve been watching. But Geno only had the half early. You know he can spin it, he’s been the league for awhile and we’re gonna have our work cut out for us.”

Smith replaced Wilson, who suffered a nasty finger injury, last Thursday night. He did well off the bench, leading Seattle on a 98-yard touchdown drive to make the game competitive. The interception he ended up throwing was a product of WR Tyler Lockett falling and being taken out of the play, leading to an easy pick. Heyward says the team has studied some of Smith’s Jets’ tape, he made one start versus Pittsburgh back in 2013, but knows sound run defense will be the key to victory.

“The best thing when a backup quarterback goes in is they have a running game. So it’s going to come down to that. I think we’ve got to do a good job of stopping that upfront. And if we do that, then we can really pin our ears back.”

Seattle’s run game has been average to slightly above this season. But they’re dealing with injuries there, too. Starter Chris Carson missed Week 5’s game due to a neck injury and his status for the Steelers’ game is very much up in the air.

How different the Seahawks’ offense looks with Smith remains to be seen. He was thrown into a difficult game circumstance his last outing, down two-possessions and needing to throw. This time around, Seattle can build a more balanced gameplan. Facing a Seahawks’ team without Wilson under center is unusual enough. That hasn’t happened since January 1st, 2012, Week 17 of the 2011 season. The year before Wilson entered the NFL.

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