He said / she said — Seattle Seahawks vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Hit Job editors Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath preview the week 12 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks (5–5) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6–4).

When: 1:25 p.m. PT Sunday, Nov. 29
Where
: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

Rogers: There are many things the Seahawks can be thankful for at this time of the year. Jess, I know you’ve got a few things on your Seahawks college navy, action green and wolf gray-colored journal. I have an idea of some of them, so I’ll try not to steal your thunder and incur your journalin’ wrath. But here are a couple of mine:

  1. They’re still in it. I know the odds are long and if the season ended now, they’d be on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but at least they still have a chance of making it back to the Super Bowl for a rare third time in a row. The calendar is about to turn to December, and the Pacific Northwest’s team can still imagine themselves in the playoffs, unlike the team they just dispatched for the second time this season.
  2. Resilient Russell Wilson — after delivering what may have been his worst performance as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback last week in an ugly loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Wilson responded — while suffering the slings and arrows of coaches and teammates’ agents, in addition to the usual cadre of critics — with one of his best games in memory. Against the going-nowhere 49ers, Wilson put up 24/29 passes for 260 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Jess, what do you think the Seahawks should be most thankful for?

Ridpath: You just had to mention my team-colored Seahawks journal, didn’t you? I thought that was our little secret??

  1. First and foremost, I think Seattle should be thankful that Ricardo Lockette is on the road to recovery after the crushing hit that knocked him cold in week eight. The moment Lockette raised his hand to form an “L” (for “Love Our Brothers”) while being carted off the field prompted my most emotional journal entry of the season. Wins and losses aside, watching him lay motionless on the field was a gut-wrenching reminder of the risks these young men face so that we can be entertained. If the injury doesn’t ultimately spell the end of Lockette’s career, he’ll have even more to be grateful for.
  2. When it comes to the Seahawks whose careers are just beginning, Pete Carroll should be thanking his lucky starts that he signed Thomas Rawls after the upstart running back went undrafted. If you had told me before this season that a Seattle running back whose last name is not Lynch would log 255 yards in a single game (including 209 rushing — the second-highest single game total in Seattle history), I would have laughed. Rawls has miles to go to prove he has what it takes over the long haul. But every single 12 out there should be feeling grateful that the blue birds have a potential heir-apparent for their franchise-defining run game.
  3. Another rookie who is proving his worth is Tyler Lockett, who caught two touchdown passes last Sunday. Lockett made the league stand up and take notice after scoring on both a punt return and kickoff return in his first three games. And now he’s showing just how valuable he can be as a receiver. It’s something the Seahawks should be especially grateful for with Jimmy Graham remaining a low-impact addition to the passing game.

Julian, assuming Marshawn Lynch is healthy this Sunday, should he get the start over the on-fire Rawls?

Rogers: The latest Lynch news reveals he won’t be healthy this Sunday. Fortunately, the sports hernia surgery he will undergo today won’t be season-ending.

But I think Rawls has more than proven himself. You noted his Seahawks record for single-game rushing yards. That places him above some pretty heady company: Lynch, Curt Warner, Chris Warren, Shaun Alexander, Ricky Watters and others. But if you want another thing to be thankful for, 12s, how about the franchise’s best all-time rusher has to be replaced and the replacement is better?

The needle is pointing up for the Seahawks (Wilson, Rawls, Lockett) after thrashing the 49ers again. But can they hold up against the balanced offensive attack of the Steelers? Despite missing star running back Le’Veon Bell for much of the season (now on injured reserve) and star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for several games, the Steelers still average 126 rushing yards per game (ranked 6th) and 258 passing yards per game (ranked 13th). The Steelers have managed to remain a credible threat at running back with imported veteran DeAngelo Williams leading the way. Through the air, Antonio Brown already has 79 receptions on the year and leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

This is a tough matchup for the Seahawks defense. The Steelers very much have the look of a beaten up team that is improving as the season goes on. They also feature what has been proven to be Seattle’s undoing this season: A premium quarterback. The Seahawks came up short against Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton and Cam Newton and they face another quarterback of that caliber on Sunday. The Legion of Boom has not been able to shut down the top throwers.

The Steelers also feature the fifth-best defense against the rush — Seattle’s real strength. If the Seahawks are going to win this one at home, they’ll probably have to do it through the air. The Steelers are ranked 28th against the pass. Jess, your Seahawks-themed dream journal is going to have to make another entry in the loss section. I see the visiting Steelers coming out on top of this game of two motivated and near-desperate teams. Prediction: Steelers 28, Seahawks 24.

Ridpath: You make a fairly convincing argument, which I hate to admit (even in my journal). But here’s the thing: Even in their handful of wins, Seattle’s offense hasn’t looked quite right all year — until last Sunday. Finally firing on all cylinders with both the pass and run game, lasts week’s Seahawks’ offense looked like they could give any defense a run for the money. With the confidence and momentum they’ve gained, I expect Wilson, Rawls, and Co. will take full advantage of the weaknesses in the Steelers’ defense.

And even though the LOB has struggled against top passers, they trump Pittsburgh’s defense in a few key areas, including average passing yards allowed per game (207.2 versus 278.4) and third down conversions allowed (32.2% versus 39.6%). If this gap in defensive chops shows itself on Sunday — and if Wilson plays like he did last week — he will pose just as much (or more) of a threat as Big Ben. Prediction: Seahawks 27, Steelers 20.


Owning up

Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.

What he got right: The game winner. I’m 7–3 on the season. I said the 49ers didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Seahawks, and they never really threatened the entire game.

What he got wrong: Not much. I had a pretty good handle on how this one would go. I did say that last week’s contest was between a team that wasn’t very good (49ers) and one that wasn’t playing as well as it can (Seahawks). I think we saw how good the Seahawks can play for this one game.

What she got right: The game winner, bringing me to 6–4 on the season. I expected Seattle’s team leaders would avoid costly mental mistakes, look sharper overall, and win with authority. They delivered.

What she got wrong: As always, I was wrong about the final score (Seahawks 29, 49ers 13). But my prediction (Seahawks 31, 49ers 17) was closer than I’ve been all season


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