For the second consecutive season, the Seattle Seahawks will go into the final week of the regular season needing help from others in order to reach the postseason.
Finding themselves in this situation was entirely self-inflicted this time around.
“I never imagined we’d be in this situation again, but here we are,” Seattle quarterback Geno Smith said.
In control of their path to the postseason entering the week, the Seahawks (8-8) collapsed defensively on Sunday in a 30-23 loss to Pittsburgh. It was a siege of physical running from the Pittsburgh duo of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren and some awful tackling that allowed the Steelers to take control of the game.
The result left Pete Carroll disappointed, the Seattle locker room frustrated and the Seahawks understanding they kicked aside their clearest path to the postseason.
“There’s one game to go, and we don’t know what the scenario is going to bring us,” Carroll said. “We’ve been here before. I think it was last year, pretty much the same thing. We’ve got to go to Arizona and go play really well and get a win and see where that leaves us.”
The onus of this loss was again on Seattle’s defense that has gotten progressively worse as the season has progressed. After showing signs of improvement early in the season, the Steelers became the ninth team in the past 11 games to top 100 yards rushing against the Seahawks.
Pittsburgh finished with 208 yards rushing, the second most allowed this season by Seattle. The Steelers were the sixth straight opponent to run for at least 135 yards. Since Carroll took over in Seattle in 2010, only 15 teams had rushed for 200 or more yards prior to the Steelers on Sunday.
And when Harris and Warren were hit by Seattle’s defenders, it rarely was the first person that brought them down. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Harris gained 118 of his 122 yards after contact.
“We just knew they were going to come out running the football,” Seattle rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon said. “We knew that was the game plan to stop the run, but we didn’t do it. They came out and they ran the football down our throat. They were able to get into their play-action game right after that. It was just a tough day for us.”
The Steelers were quick to praise the work of their offensive line, and the success running the ball — especially in the first half when Pittsburgh rushed for 145 yards — allowed some opportunities in the pass game to open in the second half.
While Harris and Warren were the keys, two of the biggest plays of the second half were passes from Mason Rudolph to George Pickens. The first covered 34 yards on a key third down midway through the fourth quarter. The other with two minutes left went for 24 yards.
“It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t seen before. They just beat us on the line of scrimmage. They beat us physically. That’s it,” Seattle linebacker Devin Bush said.
Last season, Seattle needed a win in Week 18 at home against the Los Angeles Rams and then help to get into the postseason as the No. 7 seed. They got that help when Detroit beat Green Bay in the final game of the 2022 regular season.
This season, Seattle will go to Arizona next week needing a win and some amount of help yet again, which makes it an uncomfortable position and scenario to go through yet again, especially for a team that was 6-3 in mid-November.
“Next week is not going to be an easy game. We’ve got to go out there in their place and make it happen,” Smith said. “We’re the type of team that’s going to always bounce back. We’ve got the right leadership. We’ve got the right coaches, right players, and we’re going to make it happen. We’re going to find a way to make it happen.”
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