JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Why banged-up, struggling Seahawks have a shot vs Steelers

Oct 15, 2021, 2:37 PM | Updated: 5:15 pm
Seahawks Alex Collins...
Alex Collins of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates with Duane Brown and Colby Parkinson after running for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 3. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

First of all, everyone knows the Seahawks’ Sunday night game is going to be tough because Russell Wilson won’t be able to play due to his fractured middle finger.

Two Takes: The most important Seahawks while Wilson is out

Geno Smith can do a good job at quarterback like he did last week, but he doesn’t come close to the skillset of Wilson. Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and anytime any team goes to a backup quarterback there is going to be a dropoff.

Things got worse Friday when the Seahawks learned halfback Chris Carson won’t be able to play because of his sore neck. They also found out Cedric Ogbuehi will be a scratch with a biceps injury. That means they go into the game without their best running back and backup swing tackle. If any tackle goes down in the game, they are in that much more trouble.

Related: Why the Seahawks’ running game is especially critical now

Everyone knows that the key to this game is for the defense to play well. We don’t know if the defense has figured out how to fix its problems over the past week. The biggest issue is how the defensive backs aren’t meshing with the linebackers. That leaves the team wide open for crossing patterns and relatively easy throws in the middle of the field.

The Seahawks will face Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who he gets rid of the ball quickly and take advantage of plays in the middle of the field. Roethlisberger got off to a slow start. In three of his first four games, he threw for less than six yards per attempt. But against the Denver Broncos last week, he opened the game with 23- and 50-yard completions on the first drive as Pittsburgh went on to win 24-7 over the Denver Broncos.

It appears this is Roethlisberger’s last year in the league. He’s 39 and showing his age. Injuries continue to creep into his game. Before the season he had an honest meeting with the front office and ownership. He said he felt that if he wasn’t ready to try to take this team to the playoffs or the Super Bowl, he would retire. They wanted him to return. He even took a paycut to $25 million.

But the most interesting thing about this season is “Big Ben” isn’t allowed to be “Big Ben.” Matt Canada is the Steelers’ new offensive coordinator, and he’s not allowing Roethlisberger to call audibles or go no-huddle. Roethlisberger’s best success has been being creative in a no-huddle offense and using his entire playbook with audibles.

It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks’ defensive line will do against the Steelers’ young offensive line. Usually Roethlisberger has played behind a line that has had as many as three Pro Bowlers. Now he has a completely revamped line that has two rookies and no big names. One thing the Steelers have is Najee Harris, though, and he’s a beast at running back.

Geno Smith will be going against the Steelers’ defense that is very good, but it’s not been great and will be without Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu because of injuries. Those are key defensive ends to their three-man defensive line. Linebacker T.J. Watt is the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL but he hasn’t been good the past 2 1/2 games because of a leg injury. Devin Bush is a great young inside linebacker but has been on and off the field because of a groin injury. That’s why the Steelers haven’t been getting the sacks they usually expect.

Still, with the state of the Seahawks, this is going to be a tough one.

Salk: Big answers about Seahawks are coming with Russell Wilson sidelined

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