1:00 PM ET, September 18, 2011
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
The Pittsburgh Steelers made few offseason changes to a roster that was good enough to get to Super Bowl XLV, but in their season opener they looked like a team that was introduced shortly before kickoff.
Hosting the Seattle Seahawks could help them rediscover a bit of continuity.
Seven turnovers doomed the Steelers in their most lopsided loss in 14 years, one they'll be eager to put behind them Sunday at Heinz Field against a Seahawks team that has plenty of its own issues.
Pittsburgh (0-1) didn't tinker much with a team that finished 12-4 and reached its third Super Bowl in six years, and it went into last Sunday's opener at Baltimore with every reason to believe it could make another deep playoff run this season.
That confidence certainly took a hit after a 35-7 loss, the Steelers' worst defeat since their 1997 season opener against Dallas and the first time they finished minus-seven in the turnover department since Week 1 in 1989.
Pittsburgh, however, insists it's already moved on from a loss safety Troy Polamalu described as "a big step toward humility."
"That game is behind us," receiver Hines Ward told the team's official website. "We are just worrying about Seattle. The guys in this locker room know how bad we played. ... Are we excited about how we played? No. We are embarrassed about it."
Coach Mike Tomlin agreed, pointing to punter Daniel Sepulveda's work as the only performance he was pleased with in Baltimore.
"I think the people that know and compete in this league understand that there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes," Tomlin said. "Obviously, last weekend we were grape squashers."
The Seahawks (0-1) were hardly satisfied with their own Week 1 effort, letting an opportunity slip away in San Francisco. Down 16-0 at halftime, Seattle pulled to within 19-17 with 3:56 left before allowing Ted Ginn Jr. to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns to seal the 49ers' 33-17 win.
Aside from the Seahawks' obvious special teams issues, though, coach Pete Carroll wasn't totally upset.
"I made sure (Monday) in the team meeting to show them that there was a big contrast from first to second half. They need to know that they're capable and feel it and have that confidence," Carroll said.
Neither Carroll nor Tomlin was around when Pittsburgh and Seattle met in Super Bowl XL, won 21-10 by the Steelers in a game that featured some officiating controversy, but the man who made those decisions will be at Heinz Field.
The NFL assigned Bill Leavy -- who admitted last year that he botched two fourth-quarter calls -- as Sunday's head referee, marking just the second Seahawks game he's been given since that Super Bowl.
While Seattle's defense was one bright spot last week -- it held the 49ers to 209 total yards and just one third-down conversion in 12 attempts -- not much went right for a Steelers unit that's finished no lower than fifth in total defense since Tomlin arrived in 2007.
Baltimore ran for 170 yards, 15 more than Pittsburgh allowed in three playoff games combined last season.
Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks' rushing attack certainly don't figure to follow suit, especially with fullback Michael Robinson (ankle) out, but the Steelers are concerned about the escapability of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson if a play breaks down.
"The difficult part about preparing for him is he can run just as well as he can pass," said linebacker James Harrison, who's expected to play despite suffering a knee injury last Sunday. "You have to be able to keep him contained and not lose containment because he can kill you with his legs, too."
Jackson may be looking to run more often if he doesn't have receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder), who is again questionable to make his Seahawks debut after signing a five-year, $41 million contract in July.
Ben Roethlisberger, who threw three interceptions Sunday for the ninth time in his career, should be happy to see an NFC team coming into Heinz Field. Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to a 12-1 record in interconference home games he's started, averaging an impressive 8.48 yards per attempt and posting a 92.9 passer rating.
Seattle, meanwhile, has lost its last eight road games against AFC opponents -- a streak that began with a 21-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Oct. 7, 2007.
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1. Take what the defense gives you: Pittsburgh tends to play a lot of off coverage. The Steelers rarely give up big plays and are an excellent tackling defense. And, of course, running against them is a very difficult chore. So Seattle will need to be patient with a short, precise passing game. A good way to attack the Steelers in this regard is by spreading them out, which also makes their blitzes more recognizable. Getting the ball out quickly is key. It has to be noted that Seattle was without Sidney Rice last week.
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|Avg Points Allowed||28.5||17.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||SEA|
|Rush Yds Allowed||SEA|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Pittsburgh leads 3-1|
|Oct 7, 2007||SEA 0, @PIT 21|
|Feb 5, 2006||SEA 10, @PIT 21|
|Nov 2, 2003||SEA 23, PIT 16|