Steelers Round Out NFC West Stretch Against Division Leader Seattle

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Saturday, October 06, 2007
By Eddie Griffin
Steelers Fever Columnist


After dropping their first game of the season on Sunday at Arizona, the Steelers look to bounce back when they take on the Seahawks in a rematch of Super Bowl XL.

The Steelers went into Arizona 3-0 and making waves in the AFC, but left the desert with a disappointing 21-14 loss.

Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns to Santonio Holmes, but was also picked off twice, including one in the end zone when the Steelers were driving towards a lead late in the third. And, the rushing game, which came in averaging 198.3 yards per game, managed only 77 on Sunday.

Will Pittsburgh be able to rebound and pick up a fourth win in five games, and pull another one over on Mike Holmgren or will the Seahawks gain a measure of revenge and deal Mike Tomlin his second straight loss?

Looking at the Seahawks

After experiencing much of the same Super Bowl hangover that the Steelers did last season, the Seahawks have gotten off to a great start in 2007 and enter Sunday's contest 3-1, which has them on top of the NFC West.

Last Sunday, the Seahawks gained the division lead by defeating the 49ers 23-3. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and has thrown for 1,032 yards and seven scores in four games, while completing 67% of his passes and compiling a 100.3 rating.

Shaun Alexander is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry, but has rushed for 353 yards and two scores so far. Deion Branch is Hasselbeck's favorite target, catching six passes for 130 yards on Sunday, and 20 for 329 yards thus far.

The defense ranks 17th in the league in yards allowed (327.8), but has forced ten turnovers, which has the Seahawks third in the league in turnover margin, at +5.

Keys to Success

Big Ben must play efficiently. He wasn't at his best last Sunday, and had that crucial interception, which could be looked at like a 14-point swing, after the Cardinals took the lead minutes later on a punt return touchdown. If he stays out of the mistake column, that gives the offense all of the chance it needs to move the ball and put up points.

Get back to running the ball well. This might not be too easy against the Seahawks, who have a relatively stout run defense. But, they are susceptible to allowing some yards, as Edgerrin James rushed for 126 against them in a 23-20 Cardinals win in Week 2.

Force Matt Hasselbeck into some mistakes. In the two games in which he's completed more than 70% of his passes, the Seahawks have won comfortably. But, when he's made some mistakes, Seattle's had two three-point games (one win, one loss).

Continue to play solid run defense. The Steelers gave up only 86 yards on the ground against Arizona, and are giving up only 81 yards per game so far. Shaun Alexander was held to 78 on 25 carries on Sunday, and didn't get in the end zone against San Francisco, who gave up over 200 yards to Pittsburgh the week before.

What We'll See

A good game, I hope.

There were many boos and complaints about the quality of Super Bowl XL (which really doesn't matter, considering who ended up with the trophy), so hopefully Sunday will appease any who are still bitter or unsatisfied.

After getting a taste of defeat for the first time this season, this game will be a test to see how the Steelers respond to adversity against a top-notch opponent. The best test of a young coach's abilities is how well he can rally his team after a tough defeat or bad performance, so all eyes are on how prepared Coach Tomlin has his guys on Sunday afternoon.

If they come out with the loss completely behind them, then Pittsburgh will start October just as they started September -- with a victory.

But, if they come out with a hangover from the loss, and continue to play sluggish, the Seahawks are more than good enough to make them pay for it.

However, I'll put my money on the Steelers responding and coming out on top on Sunday to move to 4-1.