Game day in Seattle has dawned foggy and cold. Supposed to get sunny this afternoon with temperatures in the 40s, with very little wind.
It will be interesting to see today how often the Seahawks have All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman shadow Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, the NFL’s No. 2 wide receiver in catches (79) and yards (1,141).
It will also be interesting to find out who starts opposite Sherman at right cornerback. Seattle activated usual nickel back Jeremy Lane off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Saturday so he can make his season debut today. The Seahawks also threw open the competition for what for the first 10 games had been Cary Williams’ starting job. DeShawn Shead played the last 1 1/2 quarters of last week’s win over San Francisco. My sense is Shead may start, Lane may get some time outside with Shead inside, and Williams may wonder how receivers keep blowing past him.
Here is my game advance story focusing on the Seahawks’ secondary, which will be the key to today’s game against Ben Roethlisberger’s deep passing.
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And here is our News Tribune gameday information. Happy Sunday:
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-4) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-5)
Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Channel 7 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
Live chat: www.thenewstribune.com/sports, 12:45 p.m.
Line: Seahawks by 3.
The series: The teams have split 16 regular-season games. The Steelers won the only postseason meeting, Super Bowl 40 in 2006. That’s the last time Seattle has scored against Pittsburgh. The Seahawks haven’t scored a point in the last two meetings, in 2007 and in coach Pete Carroll’s second Seahawks season of ’11. Both of those were in Pittsburgh. The only other time the Steelers have played in Seattle in the last 20 years was in 2003, the Seahawks’ last win in this series.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Keep ‘em in front of you: The Seahawks’ most painful losses have come this season because foes have thrown directly over them deep down the field. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard says "staying on top," which Seattle did so well while teams didn’t test it deep as much the previous two seasons, remains the key to fixing the defense’s biggest weakness. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant will test Richard Sherman, whoever starts at the opposite CB and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas often.
Make Ben throw it: Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is the best in the game at keeping pass rushers bouncing off him and extending plays to allow those deep-running receivers to get free so often. Seahawks DEs Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett has excelled affects QBs all season, but when they hit No. 7 Sunday they’d better force him to throw right then, if not bring down the 6-foot-5, 241-pound tree.
Rawls’ new role: Undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls is the lead back now that Marshawn Lynch will miss the next month following abdominal surgery. Seattle needs to feature him as early and often as they usually do Lynch, to set up the Seahawks’ play-action pass game that worked so well last week against San Francisco – and to keep Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense on the sidelines unable to control this game.
The pick: Steelers 27-23. Roethlisberger’s ability to extend plays despite Seattle’s pressure will further strain the strafed Seahawks secondary. It will take Seattle’s best offensive day this season to win this.
20 — Jeremy Lane, DB (6-0, 194, fourth season): Will he play nickel or corner or both in season debut? In slot vs Brown may be game’s biggest faceoff.
34 —Thomas Rawls, RB (5-9, 215, rookie season): His lead job now. If PIT scores like it might, he needs another huge stay to keep SEA in it.
72 — Michael Bennet, tDE (6-4, 274, seventh season): Succeeded all season getting to QBs. Must not only get to but bring down Roethlisberger.
7 — Ben Roethlisberger, QB (6-5, 240, 12th season): The task in any game vs PIT starts with keeping him inside the pocket, forcing him to throw early.
10 — Martavis Bryant,WR (6-4, 211, second season): Brown will get his. SEA’s most dangerous cover will be 2nd DBs vs. Bryant’s size, 20 yds per catch.
41 — Antwon Blake, CB (5-9, 198, fourth season): Hot-and-cold season. NE exploited him in opener. SEA will try to match 6-7 Jimmy Graham on him.