The Seahawks needed 10 yards for the most important first down of the season.
Doug Baldwin gave them 80 and a touchdown that served as an exclamation for a victory that may turn out to save Seattle’s season.
Seattle 39, Pittsburgh 30!
And yes, this was a game that deserved an exclamation with seven lead changes – three of them coming in the final quarter.
Russell Wilson threw for a career-high five touchdowns, Ben Roethlisberger threw for the most yards of any Seahawks opponent in franchise history and Seattle did something it hadn’t done since Wilson joined the team.
It won a shootout. It had to.
Seattle wasn’t stopping the Steelers on Sunday. Not after the first drive at least, which was the only time Pittsburgh punted in the game. The Seahawks may have picked off the Steelers four times, but Seattle wasn’t stopping Pittsburgh.
The Seahawks were answering, though. They did it in the first half after Pittsburgh took the lead on an early field goal. They did it again in the second half when the Steelers led by as many as seven points.
And in the fourth quarter, Wilson played one of his best periods as a Seahawk in throwing three touchdown passes. The Seattle offense that had scored just 15 touchdowns over the first nine games of the season scored six on Sunday alone.
And yet after Pittsburgh elected to kick a field goal with 3:02 left, cutting Seattle’s lead to 32-30, Seattle got the ball back needing at least one first down to give the defense a chance to make a last stand.
Instead, the Seahawks did something better. After two runs by Thomas Rawls failed to gain a yard, Wilson threw to Baldwin on a crossing route for a first down that turned out to be so much more when he ran 80 yards for the touchdown.
Wilson finished the game with 345 yards, a career-high for a regular-season game.
He also threw for five touchdowns, the first time a Seahawks quarterback had done that since Matt Hasselbeck threw five touchdown passes in a Week 3 game against the Giants in 2006.
Baldwin caught six passes for 145 yards and scored three touchdowns. It was the first time since 1997 that a Seahawk player caught three touchdown passes.
Jermaine Kearse caught four passes for 47 yards and also scored twice. Tight end Jimmy Graham – who suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter – caught four passes as well.
The numbers were even more lopsided on Pittsburgh’s side. Steelers receiver Markus Wheaton caught nine passes for 201 yards, and his 69-yard touchdown in the third quarter was the longest completion against Seattle since Week 5 of 2013 when Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton caught a 73-yard scoring pass.
And then there was Roethlisberger, who set a Seattle opponent record for passing yards despite not playing on Pittsburgh’s final possession because he was being evaluated for a head injury under the league’s concussion protocol.
Landry Jones was picked off by Kam Chancellor, Seattle’s fourth interception of the game, to seal a victory that seemed a long way off in the first half when the Steelers gained 248 yards.
In some ways, Seattle was fortunate to be trailing by four points at halftime.
The Steelers scored on three of their final four drives of the half, and the only possession that didn’t produce points certainly could have. The Steelers lined up for a field-goal attempt that would have made the score 6-0 in the first quarter.
Instead, Pittsburgh moved holder Jones – the backup quarterback – into shotgun and had him attempt a throw – across his body no less – to an offensive tackle. Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane picked the pass off and returned it 54 yards.
That set up Seattle’s first touchdown, which came in spite of a 15-yard penalty against J.R. Sweezy for jumping on the pile. Seattle went from having third-and-goal at the 1 to having the ball on the Pittsburgh 16, but Baldwin caught a 16-yard scoring pass.
The Steelers reclaimed the lead when Martavis Bryant scored on an 11-yard reverse for the second of seven lead changes.
Jermaine Kearse caught the first of his two touchdown passes in the second quarter, but the Steelers reclaimed the lead 74 seconds later on DeAngelo Williams’ 6-yard touchdown run.