Seahawks vs. Steelers: Things We Learned from Seattle's 24-0 Loss
TheÂ Seahawks continuedÂ their East Coast time-zone woes with a 24-0 drubbing at the hands of thePittsburgh Steelers, moving to 0-2 on the year.
Seattle hung tough early with a goal-line stand, but the game went downhill from there. They were down 17-0 at halftime, after being down 16-0 at half in Week 1, but this time the second half saw no real turnaround.
The offense never found a rhythm, the defensed proved to have issues with the Steelers' balanced offense, and Seattle looked overmatched for 60 minutes. Here are seven postgame thoughts.
The Offense Was Stale in the First Half, Again; No Turnaround This Week
The offense was unable to pick up where they left off inÂ San Francisco. For the game Seattle went 2-for-12 on third down and averaged 2.4 yards per carry, and balance was again issue as they fell behind early with nine runs compared to 34 dropbacks.
Seattle's offense improved in this week's first half, barely; after three first downs and 37 total yards last week, they registered four first downs and 81 yards of offense in Pittsburgh. Improvement yes, but not what the Seahawks were hoping for.
Unfortunately the struggles continued, dissimilar to their second-half "outburst" in Week 1;Â Seattle finished with eight first downs in the game, allowed five second-half sacksâ€”pass protection was improved for much of the gameâ€”and Seattle provided few positives to build on going forward.
Perhaps the most discouraging statistic about the Seahawks' offensive performance: they didn't run a play in Steelers territory until there was just under 10 minutes left in the game.
The offense went no huddle for the majority of the fourth quarter and registered four of their six plays over 10 yards in the game in perhaps the only silver lining in this one.
The Run Defense Can Be Stout...but There Are Plenty of Holes
The Seahawks' run defense was supposed to be a strength for Seattle, after they heldÂ Frank Gore to under three yards a carry in Week 1.
Things didn't turn out as planned. After Earl Thomas knifed through the line to stop Rashard Mendenhall on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on the Steelers' first drive, the Steelers found plenty of running room.
The defense struggled to consistently wrap up and Steelers runners were able to keep the play alive; after five tackles for loss against the 49ers, the Steelers lost two yards total on two negative runs.
Minus Roethlisberger's scramble yards, the Steelers ran 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. They set the tone for the game, winning the time ofÂ possessionÂ battle, 38:44 to 21:16.
Seattle can't compete without a stout run defense. We saw a balanced Pittsburgh offense expose holes in the defense that were covered up by the 49ers' conservative game plan in Week 1.
Brandon Browner Struggled, but the Coaching Staff Didn't Help
This week was a big test for Brandon Browner, as the Steelers' passing attack is more dynamic and their receivers are more slippery than the 49ers; the differences were clear.
The Steelers continually threw at Browner successfully, and his head was spinning all day.Â Browner drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the first driveâ€”a pass interference call in the end zone for the second game rowâ€”for a 39-yardÂ penalty.
Browner couldn't get a jam on the lineâ€”one of his strengthsâ€”and the speed of Mike Wallace was an issue. Browner continually looked overmatched and unable to be a factor in coverage.
One glaring issue here: Browner is 6'4," 221 pounds and was never known as a guy who can cover speedy, smaller receivers. If the strategy wasn't to disrupt Wallace on the line every play, which Browner didn't, why expose Browner to a receiver who can take advantage of his weaknesses?
I'm not sure what theÂ strategyÂ was behind this move, as experimenting with Walter Thurmond was an option. Seattle poorly attempted to use physicality on speed.
If Seattle was trying to get information on Browner's limitations, they certainly got what they were looking for. On the whole, he was one of the majorÂ disappointmentsÂ of this game for the Seahawks.
Revisting Fundamentals: Turnovers, Special Teams, Tackling, Finishing
The SeahawksÂ struggled in Week 1 with the fundamentals: protecting the football, playing solid special teams, tackling and finishing the game.
As this week brought different circumstances, finishing wasn't the main issue, though it was refreshing to see the offense pick up the pace with no huddling in the fourth quarter. It exposed other weaknesses.
Another interesting note is the two teams that combined for 10 turnovers in Week 1 and the two had zero in Week 2.
Special teams didn't give up a touchdown, but they came too close. Antonio Brown had a 41-yard return made possible by Richard Sherman; he was there with the coverage, but fell flat on his face in pursuit. K.J. Wright made what looked to be a touchdown-saving tackle. On the whole, the Seahawks need to wrap up better.
One other note: Seattle cut down their penalties from 11 to six. Unfortunately, the left side of the offensive line was responsible for three of them; Russell Okung had two false starts as his timing proved to be an issue after similar struggles in Week 1.
Seattle needs to continue working on these "simple" aspects for its home opener.
Aaron Curry Continues to Make Plays That Draw the Ire of Fans
Many believe that 2011 is a make-or-break year for Aaron Curry. HeÂ missed a big opportunity against the Steelers to win over some disgruntled fans.
The Steelers had a 2nd-and-5 at the Seattle 48 to open the second quarter. Roethlisberger threw an ill-advised pass and Curry undercut the route, in position to pick off the pass and potentially score.
Instead, the ball went right through his hands. The Steelers continued their drive on third down and scored a touchdown, putting the Seahawks in anÂ insurmountableÂ 14-0 hole.
Eventually Curry's enthusiasm, motor and work ethic won'tÂ be enough to keep fansÂ pleasantlyÂ hoping he can reach his ceiling. This missed opportunity is just another notch on the belt of blown plays.
The Offensive Struggles Are Stemming from Multiple Causes
Without getting too in depth, here are some initial observations from watching the game live regarding why the Seahawks continue to struggle on offenseâ€”we'll revisit some of these as the week goes on:
1. Jackson is still struggling with ball security on the snap. He fumbled a snap last week in the 49ers red zone and by my count mishandled three snaps in this gameâ€”two in the shotgun and one under center. Luckily, none resulted in turnovers.
2. Jackson doesn't appear to have consistent anticipation and chemistry with hisÂ receivers. A second quarter, third-and-long incomplete pass to Ben Obomanuâ€”not a good throw, but a catchable ballâ€”could have been thrown sooner. On the fantastic second-quarter sideline grab by Golden Tate, Jackson wanted Tate to release deep before he threw the shorter pass; on an incomplete third down play to Mike Williams in the third quarter, Jackson threw the ball late and Williams made the catch out of bounds instead of for the first.
3. Eleven differentÂ receiversÂ had a catch, but Zach Miller and Mike Williams combined for two catches, 22 yards on five targets. Again, Seattle struggled to get their main weapons involved.
4. Seattle had second and three or less three times in their first four second-half drives; all three plays were runs to the right side for minus-2, 1, minus-1. The minus-2 was LeonÂ Washington's only carry. Another viewing will determine whether or not Seattle disguised these plays well, but this is the type of predictability Seattle needs to remove from their offense.
5. Seattle's two-minute drill to end the first half left a lot to be desired. A Jackson scramble for minus-2 and an Okung false start set up a 2nd-and-17, killing any attempt to move the ball.
When the Steelers Went for the Shutout, the Seahawks Offensive Line Crumbled
The Steelers backed off the Blitzburgh mentality and decided to play a lot of coverage, forcing Jackson to beat them with quick reads and tough throws. I consider this a smart strategy, as Jackson is not known for his decisiveness and ability to read defenses.
The fourth quarter was an entirely different story.Â As noted previously, it took Seattle more than three quarters to cross into Steelers territory. Once that happened, the Pittsburgh defense came to play.
Jackson was sacked four times in the fourth quarter. Once Pittsburgh began using their creative blitz schemes, an offensive line that looked improved for much of the game quickly digressed.
The game was already "finished" in terms of score; the Steelers made sure Seattle left the steel city with few positives, a lot of bruises and, mostÂ importantly, no points.