BRANDON GUSTAFSON

What Carroll Said: Seahawks’ run D, tackling, onside kick and more

Dec 31, 2023, 5:21 PM

Seattle Seahawks...

Jaylen Warren of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 31, 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

After back-to-back thrilling wins, the Seattle Seahawks fell 30-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their final home game of the season.

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

The Steelers’ offense has not been very good the last few seasons, but Pittsburgh was able to find a ton of success on the ground, rushing for over 200 yards to largely dictate the pace of the game.

“Really disappointing missing this opportunity right here at home. Everyone was ready. This was a great one and we missed it,” head coach Pete Carroll said after the game.

It wasn’t just that Seattle’s defense allowed over 200 rushing yards, but that the run game has continued to be a weakness. The Seahawks invested a lot this past offseason to improve that aspect of the defense after struggling mightily to stop the run last season, but after a hot start to the year, Seattle has reverted to one of the NFL’s worst units against the run.

“We weren’t right on defense in the running game – again,” Carroll said. “It’s been repetitive. We can see it.”

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Seattle allowed 145 rushing yards on 24 attempts in the first half and held the Steelers in check in the second half, keeping them to 57 rushing yards on 22 carries in the second half, but the damage had largely been done by that point. Pittsburgh also found more success in the passing game over the final two quarters.

“We played better in the second half … But the first half, they had their way with it. There’s some stuff we have to get right for our last opportunity next week,” Carroll said.

Carroll told reporters that the Steelers didn’t do anything different than expected when they had the ball. Carroll was “surprised” that the game occurred that way because the Seahawks “did the things we needed in the gameplan and we called everything we had.”

“And we didn’t stop them consistently,” he said. “Both their running backs did a really nice job against us. It was just more than we could handle on this day.”

More specifically than just the run defense playing poorly, the Seahawks had maybe their worst day tackling this season, and that hasn’t exactly been a strength of the team.

“The tackling just seemed like it was really off,” Carroll said. “It just seemed like we did not make the tackles that we had to, we didn’t knock the piles back like we’d like to.”

“The tackling wasn’t good enough and we weren’t efficient enough. We had shots. We had shots at the line of scrimmage,” he later added. “… They won the battles better than we did.”

Carroll was specifically asked about the defense’s mindset when it comes to tackling.

“That’s part of it … We felt like we were jacked and ready to go and we felt like we really hammered principles and the scheme so we can play really efficient at the line of scrimmage, and it didn’t work for us,” he said. “… Mindset, it’s a good question because it needs to be different than it was or look what just happened. We gave them too much.”

Onside kick decision

The Seahawks kicked a field goal with 2:01 left in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game.

Seattle had two timeouts remaining and the 2-minute warning, meaning a touchback would have resulted in the 2-minute warning stopping the clock after Pittsburgh’s first offensive play, effectively giving the Seahawks three timeouts while needing one stop to try and get the ball back.

But rather than kick it deep, Seattle tried an onside kick, which was unsuccessful. The Seahawks didn’t get the ball back after that.

So why did the Hawks try for the onside kick rather than a touchback?

“If we (could have) kicked the ball out of the end zone, we would have done that, but we weren’t hitting the ball well enough to do that,” Carroll said. “So that was the first thought (that) we have to kick it and they’re gonna return it so they’re gonna bring it out and we can’t stop the clock there. ”

“To me, the onside kick thing, it’s a chance to get the football, and not a very good chance,” Carroll later said. “But we have to stop them no matter what. We have to stop them three plays whether it’s back here or here. We had an opportunity to get the football, and that’s what we went for.”

A puzzling challenge

The reason that the Seahawks had just two timeouts remaining was because of a lost challenge in the fourth quarter.

On second-and-9 deep in Seahawks territory with just over six minutes remaining in the game, Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph hit George Pickens for a quick compeltion and the young receiver tip-toed his way along the sideline for a first down, being pushed out at Seattle’s 5-yard line.

Carroll and the Seahawks challenged the play, thinking Pickens stepped out of bounds short of the line to gain.

That wasn’t the case, and the Hawks lost the challenge and a timeout. The Steelers made a field goal to make it 30-20 at the time.

“I thought it was (before the first-down marker). We saw it upstairs first that he went out of bounds around the 7 or 8 or right around there and then we looked it again and thought on the quick flash that we get on the screen that we might have something there, and I think it would have been short of the first down, so that was the reason to take a shot at it,” Carroll said. “At that point, I’m not saving timeouts or saving (the challenges).”

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What Carroll Said: Seahawks’ run D, tackling, onside kick and more