The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the hunt for another AFC North division crown. After the Cincinnati Bengals blew a chance to widen their lead, the Steelers are only two games out with six to play. The upcoming schedule is favorable for the Black and Gold. But the pivotal game will be against the Seahawks at insanely loud CenturyLink Field. There are some major keys that could contribute to a Steelers win out west.
The Steelers have not fared well in the Emerald City. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are 1-6 in Seattle and have lost to the Seahawks in three stadiums there. The losses came at the old Kingdome, the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, and in the current stadium. They lost in Seattle when they were in the AFC and lost to them as an NFC team, as well.
The Steelers only victory there came in 1983, when their current defensive coordinator, Keith Butler, was on the losing side as a Seahawks starting inside linebacker. The Steelers have lost their last four games in Seattle since then.
The series is tied at 8-8. That does not include the most memorable game between the two teams, Pittsburgh’s 21-10 win in Super Bowl XL in 2006. The Steelers have not been in Seattle since 2003, a 23-16 Seattle win. The Steelers have won two games since then in Pittsburgh, 21-0 in 2007 and 24-0 in 2011.
The Steelers need the victory to better their position in the AFC playoff picture. The Seahawks are desperately seeking the win to stay afloat and have a chance at making the NFC postseason party.
Here are the main keys to a Steelers victory.
The running game
The Steelers must find a way to get DeAndre Williams back into the flow. His numbers before the Cleveland game were promising. But against the Browns, Williams was held to 54 yards on 17 carries. Those 3.2 yards per carry will not fly against Seattle. With the Legion of Boom looking better, the ground game will have to share some of the load. There may be more snaps from the pistol and shotgun formation from the Steelers. Coordinator Todd Haley will have to find a happy medium.
Roethlisberger is one of the toughest players at his position. But the key will be to protect him. There can be no slip-ups in pass protection against the Seahawks. Ben was uncanny in his appearance off the bench in Week 10. But the Hawks will be looking for the same heroics. Roethlisberger will need help to avoid an all-out pass rush designed by Seattle coordinator Kris Richard. Utilizing the running game, while incorporating Heath Miller and quick passes should defuse the blitz tendencies.
There’s no doubt that Antonio Brown is one of the best wideouts, in the history of the game. Stopping him is virtually impossible when he is dialed-in with Roethlisberger. But he will have one of the best shadowing him. Richard Sherman will be trying to disrupt the timing routes. Getting him the ball deep and often will be a huge factor. Finding Brown and Bryant on third down will help extend drives.
The Steelers’ defense has been vulnerable this year. The spotty play won’t be acceptable against the Hawks and Russell Wilson. Collapse the pocket around him and be ready with a spy if he wants to run. Contain Thomas Rawls to limit the Seahawks success with play-action fakes. He can’t be allowed to dominate for huge yards.
Everyone loves to see the deep, quick connections on offense that turn into touchdowns. But the key to victory in Seattle will be keeping the Seahawks defense on the field. Tire them out early, and those consistent deep passes to Brown and Bryant will come. Slow and steady will earn the Steelers a win.
[Feature Photo by Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]