By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon with an opportunity to move one step closer to a playoff spot. Instead, they faltered in the second half against the Seattle Seahawks in a game where both teams swapped the lead multiple times. The Steelers’ weaknesses were exposed and in critical situations failed badly, forcing them to a 6-5 record after a 39-30 loss.
Steelers’ offense: B-
If the offense was graded just on first half performance, they would have earned high marks. The offensive line did its job protecting Ben Roethlisberger, setting up opportunities for the veteran quarterback to show Seattle’s defense different looks and keep them guessing. With DeAngelo Williams moving from the backfield to a wideout position, Pittsburgh was able to get him involved in the passing game with fullbacks Will Johnson and Roosevelt Nix as well as tight ends Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth and Jesse James. Although Antonio Brown was blanketed for the most part, he and Markus Wheaton provided much-needed yardage and scoring opportunities.
In the second half, the offensive line was slow to pick up the Seattle defense’s halftime adjustments, leaving Roethlisberger exposed. The Seahawks sacked Roethlisberger twice in one series alone and continued pressure resulting in two interceptions being thrown and a helmet-to-helmet hit that forced him to the sideline for the final offensive drive. Jones threw two interceptions in the game; one as Roethlisberger’s backup and one in a fake field goal attempt that was doomed from the start.
Steelers defense: C
The Steelers are still getting good performance from their defensive line and linebackers. Where they are failing is in the defensive backfield and third-down situations. Pressure against Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson worked until the Seahawks took advantage of soft coverage on the edges and capitalized in the seam once they saw the linebackers swarm the line.
Wrap-up tackling and the ability to consistently read and execute good coverage continues to impair this defense; something defensive coordinator Keith Butler has to answer for at this point. Why Antwon Blake remained in the game is key to that line of questioning. Five touchdown passes would hurt nearly any defense, but for the Steelers this is one area that is a non-healing wound.
Special Teams: B
The Steelers do just enough from week to week on special teams, there is nothing flashy about their performances. Kicker Chris Boswell was 3-3 this week in field goal attempts/conversions. Jacoby Jones remains simply a warm body, showing little effort in the return game. Jordan Berry had two punts in the game for a 39.5 yard-per-kick average. He pinned the Seahawks within the 20 yard-line on one of those boots.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said he would ease his team conservatively into this game. That was working until he and his coordinators detoured and went for a fake field goal attempt immediately after a time out in the second quarter that was easily predicted. Sending (Landry) Jones in as the holder was like showing Seattle the pocket ace, resulting in a play that forced Jones to throw a poor pass that was intercepted. The Seahawks needed just two plays to score, putting them ahead 7-3.
In a game that was being managed well initially, the wheels seemed to come off after halftime. A lack of adjustment to the Seahawks defense resulted in the Steelers rolling the dice and turn to the passing game. The run was almost completely abandoned, making Pittsburgh predictable and easily tamed.
The Steelers were able to keep themselves in this game for three quarters matching Seattle in scoring in a shootout. Things turned ugly shortly after a hard hit on Seattle receiver Jermaine Kerse forced the ball loose and was nearly recovered by Ross Cockrell. When the Steelers defense forced the punt, Roethlisberger ended up throwing a ball meant for Brown; but Brown was tripped up and the ball fell into Richard Sherman’s hands in a wide open field. Despite a career game from Wheaton at receiver, the Steelers could not keep Wilson from targeting Doug Baldwin to seal the win for the Seahawks. The Steelers return to Heinz Field in Week 13 to host the Indianapolis Colts.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on