BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens runs back an interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 35-7. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
As I alluded to in my short write up about Seattle Seahawks star safety Earl Thomas, there's no argument to be made when it comes to whether or not the Seahawks can match the Pittsburgh Steelers person for person when the two teams meet at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh may turn out to be too old, or slow, or banged up to ultimately make as much noise as we thought at the outset of the season, but there's no question that they still have the team to beat up on lesser opponents in 2011, of which there are several on the schedule.
Seattle would be one of those teams. In fact, there's really only two ways that Seattle can win this game:
Special Teams: Yeah, yeah, kickoff rule, schmick-off rule. There were three kickoff return touchdowns on Kickoff Weekend, the most in NFL history. I guarantee you Leon Washington will take some chances in the return game at the instruction of his coaches. Seattle absolutely has to get any edge they can in the return game. They'll need to punt well, cover well, and perhaps even try something creative like a fake punt or FG.
Turnovers: The Steelers were +17 in the turnover department a year ago; Seattle finished at -9. After turning the ball over 7 times in the season opener, it's hard to imagine Pittsburgh finishing too far in the black again this year, but so long as they win the TO matchup most weeks, that;s okay. Interestingly enough, Seattle is ranked 31st so far in turnovers (-3), with only the Steelers carrying a worse differential into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger must protect the ball, trust the offense and his reads, and get rid of the ball quickly. Two fumbles big Big Ben last week; can't have that again this coming Sunday.
I don't want to oversimplify a game as nuanced as football, but really those two things should be what determines whether the Steelers get a win on Sunday. Seattle just doesn't have the offensive firepower to hang with the Steelers unless they're aided by good field position from turnovers or splash plays on special teams. Frankly, I think the Steelers should try to run the ball 35 times on Sunday and keep Ben Roethlisberger in the 20-25 passes range. But a part of me is concerned that Bruce Arians and Big Ben will try to build back the confidence offensively by airing it up more often than might be prudent. More on that later.