Rost: Though Seahawks are in playoff picture, D’s woes are the story

Dec 31, 2023, 4:34 PM | Updated: 5:39 pm

Seattle Seahawks Steelers Najee Harris...

Steelers RB Najee Harris runs for a first down against the Seattle Seahawks. (Conor Courtney/Getty Images)

(Conor Courtney/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks’ late comeback magic ran out in Week 17. The good news is they’re not eliminated from the playoffs, though they’ll need a win and some help in next week’s regular season finale. But that’s probably not what any of us are talking about right now.

Steelers 30, Seahawks 23: Instant Reaction | Recap | Big Plays | Stats

Instead, we’re asking ourselves why the Seahawks lost, and it’s hard not to look at a defense that once again struggled to stop an unrelenting run game.

Could you blame Geno Smith’s fumble in the fourth quarter in Seattle territory? Sure.

Could you lament a false start at home on a fourth quarter drive? Of course.

There were some questionable decisions as well from Pete Carroll. Why challenge that George Pickens catch? Why go for an onside kick when they’re impossible to recover and you’ve got the two-minute warning on your side?

What Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks’ loss

But how can you not turn first to a defense that allowed 468 net yards, including 202 rushing yards, and 30 points from one of the league’s worst offenses?

That isn’t an exaggeration. Before he was hurt, regular Steelers starting quarterback Kenny Pickett threw just six touchdowns over 12 starts. Pittsburgh’s offense was averaging a fifth-worst 17 points per game. They fired their offensive coordinator, and there’s a quarterback controversy brewing after back-to-back wins with Mason Rudolph under center. This is not an offense that’s supposed to carve you up. And yet it’s what they did against Seattle on Sunday.

What’s worse is Seattle’s focus on improving against offensive attacks like Pittsburgh’s. The Seahawks invested plenty in the defense over the offseason (including their most expensive free-agent signing and their highest draft pick under Carroll and general manager John Schneider). But they also made stopping the run a focus. That won’t get easier next week against a top-10 rushing team in Arizona, regardless of the Cards’ defensive woes.

A trip to the postseason is still possible. And it’s at least worth entering the New Year with the hope for a longer-than-expected football season. But once the curtains close, Carroll & Co. have some big questions to answer, particularly on defense.

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