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Clayton: Seahawks may be 2-4, but they’re also making needed progress

Oct 18, 2021, 2:59 PM | Updated: 2:59 pm

Seahawks CB D.J. Reed...

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson is unable to make a catch ahead of Seahawks CB D.J. Reed during the first quarter at Heinz Field. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Pete Carroll vowed to fix some of the Seahawks’ problems on defense.

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In their first five weeks of the season, the Seahawks produced historically poor defensive numbers, giving up more than 450 yards a game in four of those games.

Carroll’s plan turned out better Sunday night, but the Seahawks still couldn’t get over the top against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A Geno Smith fumble set up an easy Steelers field goal, and Pittsburgh came away with the 23-20 win in overtime.

There is still plenty of stuff on offense and defense for the Seahawks to work on, but there was progress.

The Seahawks made some interesting changes that allowed them to give up only 345 yards against the Steelers on 71 plays. That’s 4.9 yards per play – not bad. For the first time this season, the linebackers were in better sync with the secondary.

Some of that is the Seahawks used more formations with an extra defensive back. The extra defensive back helps because it gets some playing time for safety Ryan Neal, a sleeper player who does a good job when he gets a chance to play. Cody Barton is also a good player and the starting strongside outside linebacker, but he had only two plays Sunday night. Jordan Brooks had 63. Brooks and Bobby Wagner each were involved with 14 tackles.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 29 of 40 passes, but the encouraging news for the defense is that he had only 229 passing yards for 5.72 yards per attempt. In the first half, the defense didn’t allow a completion longer than 12 yards. For the game, they allowed only one completion longer than 15 yards. Pretty good.

The other change is how Carroll was willing to juggle some things at cornerback.

Normally, he doesn’t like to rotate corners. They started the game with D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones. Reed had a great game, but they mixed in rookie Tre Brown and he looked promising. Then, Jones got hurt and Brown ended up finishing the game. He came up and made a big hit to stop Pittsburgh on third down in overtime, showing great closing speed. Brown ended up playing 40 plays, roughly 53 percent of the snaps.

Seattle’s pass rush looked a little better and the defense did a better job stopping the run. It was encouraging, but there is still plenty of work to do.

The biggest news on offense is that Geno Smith showed good leadership and did a nice job in his first game starting at QB in place of Russell Wilson. He just couldn’t get the Seahawks over the top.

Alex Collins was great with 20 carries for 101 yards. It’s the first 100-yard game by a Seahawks rusher since 2019. The only problem is he suffered a glute/hip injury that didn’t allow him to finish the game. The Seahawks need him with Chris Carson on injured reserve, and Carroll isn’t sure what he will be able to do next Monday night when they host New Orleans. Carroll did say that Rashaad Penny will come off IR this week and be available, though.

I thought the Seahawks made a mistake by not running the ball much in the first half, but they fixed that in second half by running through the Steelers’ defense.

At 2-4, it appears to be panic time for the Seahawks, but take one thing into account: There are only six winning teams in the NFC. There are seven spots in the playoffs. It looks as though one or two nine-win teams could make the playoffs if that continues. Winning the division for the Seahawks is out of consideration. They are four games behind Arizona and three games behind the Los Angeles. But they could still sneak into the wild card round.

Rost: The good, the bad and the ugly for 2-4 Seahawks

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