With time running out, the Seahawks must capitalize on their opportunities against Pittsburgh

Nov 27, 2015, 3:58 PM | Updated: 4:36 pm
Seattle should have opportunities to improve upon its league-low interception total of four against a Steelers offense that, like Arizona's, likes to throw deep. (AP)
(AP)

Chances.

The Seahawks’ secondary figures to get plenty of those on Sunday against a Pittsburgh offense known for a passing game that is both vertical and voluminous.

Chances are also something that the Seahawks are beginning to run out of when it comes to starting a run toward the postseason. Can Sunday’s game be the moment that Seattle finds the closing kick to outrun what has been a disappointing season?

If that question seems familiar, it’s because it has been asked before. A few times, in fact, whether it was heading to Cincinnati in Week 5 or before Seattle hosted Arizona two weeks ago. The Seahawks entered both of those games with a .500 record, and in both instances they held a fourth-quarter lead only to watch the opponent rally each time to leave Seattle feeling all hollowed out.

The difference this week is that the Steelers might serve as the Seahawks’ last best chance to start a turnaround. Pittsburgh is 6-4, and a victory over an opponent whose quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is averaging more than 300 passing yards per game would be the Seahawks’ most meaningful of the season.

It will also be one of the most challenging because like Arizona, Pittsburgh is known for an aggressive passing offense. Antonio Brown has 79 receptions, most of any AFC player in the league. Second-year receiver Martavis Bryant is averaging 20 yards per catch, second-most of any player with more than 10 receptions this season.

And then there’s Roethlisberger, who in his 12 years in Pittsburgh has gone from a big-bodied game manager to an often-gimpy gunslinger. He missed four games this season because of a knee injury and did not start Pittsburgh’s last game because of a sprained foot only to be summoned from the bullpen and throw for 379 yards against Cleveland after Landry Jones went down.

“He’s a big risk taker to give them the advantage of going for it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Roethlisberger. “There’s a real similarity between them and Arizona.”

That’s reason to be wary. After all, Seattle didn’t exactly muzzle the Cardinals’ offense two weeks ago. But it wasn’t the pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns that were as big of a concern as what happened in the second quarter when receiver Michael Floyd twice got behind Seattle’s secondary for scores.

The Cardinals had 334 yards passing in that game, most Seattle allowed this season. In fact, it was the most passing yards the Seahawks had allowed in three years going back to October 2012, when the Patriots finished with 388 yards passing in a loss in Seattle.

Yards haven’t been the biggest issue for Seattle’s defense. At least not passing yards. The Seahawks have allowed the second-fewest in the league this season. On the other hand, Seattle has lost a fourth-quarter lead in each of its five defeats this season and after 10 games, the Seahawks have intercepted only four passes.

There may be a change in Seattle’s secondary, too. Cary Williams was replaced by DeShawn Shead in the second half of last week’s victory over San Francisco, and Carroll hasn’t given any indication of whether that change will stick.

Whoever is at cornerback is going to get tested by Pittsburgh’s passing attack. That’s a good thing in the eyes of Richard Sherman.

“They like to take their shots,” he said. “So it’s going to be a fun game.”

The Seahawks will have their chances against Pittsburgh on Sunday. It’s also one more opportunity for Seattle to improve a season that so far has been only half bad. If the Seahawks don’t grab hold of this chance, it’s hard to know how many more they’re going to get.

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With time running out, the Seahawks must capitalize on their opportunities against Pittsburgh