The Steelers haven’t defeated the Seahawks in Seattle since 1983. In order to keep their already-slim playoff hopes realistically alive, they will need to walk away with a win. Before Week 17, though, we sat down with John Gilbert of Field Gulls to get his insight on the Seahawks.
1. Geno Smith returned with a bang last week against the Titans. How confident are you that he can continue to play this well in the season’s final two weeks?
I have no worries about Geno. He’s been lights out when he’s been provided protection and afforded the opportunity to make his reads and deliver the ball where it needs to go.
That said the kryptonite for the Seattle offense this season has been definite passing situations, including 3rd & long and late game situations. The young and inexperienced offensive line battled injuries at several positions over the course of the year, and the offensive performance in critical situations struggled as a result. When Geno has been given protection, the team has put points on the board without trouble. When the offensive line has struggled to give him time, the offense has sputtered. A big part of this falls on Geno, who needs to get the ball out quickly and not put unneeded stress on the offensive line, however it’s a two way street and between injuries and inexperience, the line has struggled mightily to give Geno even a minimal amount to of time to do his job.
2. The Seahawks seem to have found a really good 1-2 punch with Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet. How much success do you see them having against the Steelers run defense that is allowing almost 120 rushing yards per game?
The struggles of the offensive line extend to the run game as well. A big part of the success of Walker and Charbonnet has been the ability of the offense to force defenses into lighter personnel groupings and lighter boxes, which has helped open up running lanes for both backs.
What is extremely interesting is how completely polar opposites Walker and Charbonnet are stylistically. Walker is a speedster who has a tendency to try to bounce things to the outside where he can try to win a footrace to the corner to turn upfield, while Charbonnet is a plodding technician with very good vision who follows his reads with the zone blocking system very well, while lacking the high end speed to generate a breakaway on any play. With that in mind, if they’re going to put up big numbers on the ground against the Steelers defense, they’re likely to do it between the twenties, as they have struggled to move the ball on the ground once reaching the red zone.
3. With Jamal Adams out, and Devon Witherspoon questionable, who do you expect to step up in Seattle’s defensive backfield?
Julian Love will fill Adams’ role at strong safety, while it’s likely that Michael Jackson, Tre Brown and former Steelers first round pick Artie Burns will split up Witherspoon’s duties. Witherspoon often slides inside as the nickel, depending on offensive personnel and the matchups presented. Burns has been filling that role for the Seahawks very well the past couple of weeks, so Steelers fans shouldn’t be surprised if they hear that name. Jackson and Brown have played rotationally on the outside, especially so in recent weeks as Riq Woolen struggled at times, and I won’t be surprised if Witherspoon plays in a somewhat limited capacity, with he, Jackson, Brown and Woolen rotating throughout the game.
4. Who on the Seahawks roster, either offense or defense, should Steelers fans be aware of that they may not already be?
Steelers fans unaware that former first rounder Devin Bush and Artie Burns are on the Seattle roster may be shocked to hear those names called regularly Sunday, as they could both play significant roles due to injuries to Jordyn Brooks and Devon Witherspoon.
With that in mind, the name to know on offense will be Anthony Bradford, who is a rookie starting at right guard who has struggled at times in pass protection, but has been an absolute monster as a run blocker. If things get chippy and there’s jawing going back and forth while the Seahawks have the ball, there’s a very good chance that Bradford will be right in the middle of it.
When the Steelers have the ball the names to know will be outside linebacker Boye Mafe. Mafe is a second year player out of Minnesota who has a chance to become the first Seahawks player with double digit sacks since 2018. There haven’t been a whole lot of bright spots on the Seattle defense this season, but Mafe has been one of them.
5. DraftKings has the Seahawks as 3.5 point favorites at home. Do you see that coming to fruition?
I do see the Seahawks covering, and expect it to be close for most of the day, with the Seahawks scoring late to effectively put things out of reach. With that in mind, I don’t expect it to be a high scoring affair, but with the over/under set at just 41 as of this moment, I do think that the two teams will combine for enough scoring for the over to hit.