According to the National media, the Seahawks should avoid even boarding the plane to Pittsburgh. I’m not a subscriber to this line of thinking, and I doubt the Seahawks are either. This game, like every game, is about match ups. Here are the biggest match ups that may swing the pendulum of success. Who will take advantage?
Bring Pressure with the front 4. (Key Matchup: Red Bryant and Chris Clemons Vs RT Marcus Gilbert)
A bloody, and battered Ben Roethlisberger is what every Seahawks fan hopes to see. It’s also one thing very few teams are able to achieve without giving up big plays in the passing game. Roethlisberger is very good at extending plays in the pocket, and throwing under severe duress. That’s why we must get pressure without bringing additional defenders any more than we have to. The Steelers have one glaring weakness: The Offensive line. The right tackle position should be a huge target for Gus Bradley’s defense with the season-ending injury to the Steeler’s best blocker Willie Colon. Second round pick Marcus Gilbert will have his handful with Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons. The Steelers do not shy away from exposing their line to pressure. In the Ravens game the Steelers went with a 3 or 4 wide package on roughly 33 of it’s 41 passing attempts. This stat is obviously skewed due to the lopsided nature of the game, but it’s also an indicator of the what the Steelers feel like they do best.
Protect Tarvaris Jackson’s right side (Key Match up: James Carpenter Vs OLB Lamarr Woodley and DE Aaron Smith.)
The struggles of James Carpenter have been well documented. At the right tackle position he has played with what appears to be 25 pound ankle weights, and an inability to bend his knees. This has left him susceptible to pretty much any move a DE or OLB would like to utilize.
Against the Denver Bronco’s during the pre-season there was one look that he couldn’t handle at all: A ILB, and outside shade linebacker blitz.
With this look, the DE sets up with his helmet on the inside half of Carpenter (Side closest to the guard). The DE will influence, then slant inside Carpenter. Lamarr Woodley will come off the edge, and Troy Polamalu will blitz the A gap. In most pass protection schemes the guard will be forced to take the DE, and the right tackle must get outside to engage the crashing OLB.
The problem this kind of blitz brings is two-fold. First, James Carpenter is very slow of foot, and outside speed rushers give him fits. Secondly, this will force the Seahawks to pull one potential game-breaker in Zach Miller out of the passing game. How we handle this, and all the other insane Pittsburgh blitzes, is key to our chances at victory. Darrell Bevell is going to really have to get creative this week.
Utilizing our TE’s in the passing game (Key Matchup: Zack Miller Vs Steelers underneath coverage)
Here is the match up I’m really hoping we can take advantage of. Like previously mentioned, the ability to utilize Miller consistently will be determined by Carpenter’s ability to hold his own on the right side. Against the Ravens, the Steelers had their issues with the TE position in underneath coverage. I feel like we could see a huge breakout game from Miller if we can get him out of our protection scheme. With Rice out yet again, it’s time for one of our big free agency pickups to pay dividends.
Advantage: Seahawks, but only if the line can pass protect.
Bottom line: The line in Vegas is 14 1/2 Steelers. If we can win the three battles I’ve highlighted, I think we can win this game. If we don’t win those battles we may be in for the long day the “experts” predicted.
So what do you think? Let us know if there is a match up you think we missed by commenting. We love to hear the opinions of our fellow 12thMan.