Friday, September 16, 2011

Here We Go, Steelers, Here We Go

The consensus opinion among media blowhards, bloggers, fans and talk-show callers -- even in Seattle -- is that the "angry" Steelers should smash the Seahawks Sunday at Heinz Field.  Pulverize 'em, cream 'em, demolish 'em, annihilate 'em, crush 'em, just like the Baltimore Ravens did to the -- oops, never mind, touchy subject.

Well-l-l, maybe the Steelers should pluck the Seahawks clean on Sunday, but  ... you can't take any NFL team for granted (especially against the spread, not that we'd know anything about that).  More to the point, the Seahwaks couldn't possibly win this game, could they?  Could they?

Of course they could.  Not that they will, but they could.

On a What They Must Do to Win segment this week on ESPN's "NFL Live," the excellent analyst Mark Schlereth opined that for the Seahawks to win this game, they must start Alfred E. Neumann backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (pictured at left).

That ain't gonna happen, of course, as the reliably unsteady Tarvaris Jackson will start vs. the Steelers, which should be entertaining.  Word from Seattle is that Jackson held onto the ball wa-a-a-ay too long last Sunday vs. the 49ers, who sacked him five times and harried him continuously.  Hopefully, the Steelers will wreak similar havoc, and they should, considering the youth and inexperience on Seattle's offensive line.

Still, the Seahawks have some talent.  After all, they did make the playoffs last year (somehow).  Their receivers are big.  Minnesota Vikings expatriate Sidney Rice (6'4", 202) and USC/Pete Carroll reclamation project Mike Williams (6"5", 235), both five-year veterans, are good (Rice is very good) and could present matchup problems for the Steelers corners.  Update: Sidney Rice may not play on Sunday -- he's nursing a hip injury.

Running back Marshawn Lynch is a legitimate home-run threat.  Tight end Zach Miller (6'5", 255), who signed with Seattle as a free agent this off-season after five years of fairly impressive accomplishments with the Oakland Raiders, must be licking his chops after seeing how the Ravens' tight ends ran free vs. Pittsburgh last Sunday.  Miller had 60, 66 and 56 receptions the past three seasons, a span during which the Raiders' were about as inept at quarterback as the Seahawks appear to be.

On defense, Seattle also has some good talent, led by third-year veteran and former first-rounder Aaron Curry (6'2", 255) at linebacker.  Defensive tackle Alan Branch, who played alongside Lamarr Woodley at Michigan, is no Hlati Ngata but nevertheless is a legitimate tough customer.  Defensive end Red Bryant is a beast of a run-stopper at least and a favorite of Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, who advocated  the Steelers draft him with a late-round pick in 2008 (he lasted until the 26th pick of the seventh round before Seattle selected him out of Texas A&M).  On the back end of the defense, safeties Earl Thomas (drafted out of Texas with the 14th pick of the first round in 2010) and Kam Chancellor (6'3', 232) are rangy, ball-hawking, and solid tacklers.

Much has been made this past week of the Seahwaks' special teams, which surrendered both a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown -- within a minute -- to San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. last Sunday.  Overlooked is the fact Seatlle has a dangerous return man of their own in the speedy and elusive Leon Washington, a former Pro Bowler who returned a punt 73 yards vs. the 49ers -- only to have it nullifed by a penalty.

It really was a bad week for Seattle's special teams, but the Steelers cannot count on a repeat performance in that department.  Can they?

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