Thanks to 209 yards rushing on the ground from Thomas Rawls and punishing defense, the Seattle Seahawks dispatched of the San Francisco 49ers 29-13 last Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. Now, the Seahawks will have a chance for their first signature win of the season against a very dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers team that is coming off of their bye week. The last meeting between these two teams took place back in 2011 at Heinz Field, where the Steelers won 24-0.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 9-8, including the infamous Super Bowl XL win that was filled with plenty of controversial calls that went against the Seahawks that Super Sunday as the Steelers won 21-10. This will be the first time that Pittsburgh has visited CenturyLink Field since that fateful game at Ford Field in Detroit more than nine years ago. Consequently, Seahawk fans should be more than ready to unleash almost a decade's worth of pent-up anger at Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers this afternoon.
Pittsburgh at Seattle
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Seahawks -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Richard Sherman vs. Antonio Brown?
This should be a fantastic matchup of the two of the best players in the game. Brown, has 79 catches for 1,141 yards on the season and his speed is going to put Sherman and the rest of the Seahawks secondary to the test. The ability to step up and make tackles right away to minimize the yards after catch by Brown is going to be an absolute must in order for Seattle to get the win on Sunday. Sherman, bounced back from a rough performance against Arizona with a plus-1.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus against the 49ers, as the secondary as a whole was more sound as expected going up against Blaine Gabbert. Now, the onus will be on Sherman to take care of Brown by limiting his explosive plays, which will then free up the rest of the Legion of Boom to take care of Martavis Bryant and the rest of the Pittsburgh pass catchers.
2. Can Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett pressure Ben Roethlisberger?
With Roethlisberger not at 100 percent it should provide a golden opportunity for Avril and Bennett to be unleashed and try and create relentless amounts of havoc and disrupt the rhythm of the Steelers' passing game. Avril has quietly had himself a very nice season with 6.5 sacks thus far along with a couple of forced fumbles, as he has been very difficult for opposing offenses to deal with. Bennett, also has 6.5 sacks on the season and if he can stay away from personal foul penalties at the wrong time on Sunday it could be another huge day for the Seahawks' defensive line. If Avril and Bennett can’t control the line of scrimmage, then look for Pittsburgh to attack with DeAngelo Williams on the ground over and over again.
3. Can Thomas Rawls continue to impress at running back?
Rawls did a very nice job of not hesitating and attacking the holes in the San Francisco defense last Sunday. With the challenges that the Seattle offensive line has had in sustaining blocks for long periods of time, the running style of Rawls is a seamless fit at this point and time for the Seahawks. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell utilizes Rawls on Sunday against the Steelers. Logic would dictate that Seattle would want to try to play a bit of keep away from Pittsburgh in the early going in order to limit the number of possessions for the Steelers' dynamic offense. In addition, the ability to get Rawls rolling also would set up Russell Wilson to be more effective in the play-action passing game, which has to happen if the Seahawks are going to have a chance to win.
These two teams should wage another dramatic battle that could come down to which one has the ball last. Both defenses should rise to the occasion just enough to keep both offenses from putting too many points on the scoreboard. The only way this game turns into a big-time shootout will be if the Seahawks can get a strip sack fumble for a touchdown or a Tyler Lockett punt return or the Steelers defensively can get a timely interception or two to set up short fields for their offense. If Russell Wilson can take care of the football and not throw too many reckless, ill-advised passes, then Seattle should be in position to win late. Pittsburgh will need to start fast and put the Seahawks' backs against the wall and force them to be one-dimensional in the passing game. In the end Seattle should find a way to make one more big play defensively than the Steelers to set up a critical NFC Wild Card matchup in Minnesota next Sunday.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Steelers 20
Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow him on Twitter @smwhittum.