RENTON — The Seahawks expect to have left guard Robert Gallery back for Sunday’s game, and the timing couldn’t be better.
Seattle faces the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that led the NFL in sacks last year and also boasted the league’s best run defense. And while the return of Gallery, who mi
ssed the season opener with a sprained knee, won’t cure all of Seattle’s offensive problems, head coach Pete Carroll certainly hopes it will help.
With Gallery, a seven-year veteran, on the sideline, the Seahawks started a historically young line in their opener. Center Max Unger, who came into the game with 17 career starts, was the most experienced of the five linemen, and Russell Okung (10 starts) was the only other player with an NFL start under his belt. Seattle’s line was the least experienced to start a game since the 1995 Carolina Panthers, an expansion team playing its second game. Not surprisingly, Seattle’s line struggled mightily against the 49ers, particularly in the first half when the Seahawks allowed three sacks and averaged 1.1 yards per carry.
“Robert coming back helps us,” Carroll said. “He’s experienced. That’s the reason we got him here — to help those guys up front and communicate well and make the game move more smoothly for them, so hopefully that will happen.”
With Gallery back in action, rookie James Carpenter moves back to right tackle. Carpenter, Seattle’s first-round pick, moved from tackle to left guard last week following Gallery’s injury, leaving Breno Giacomini to start at right tackle. Carroll didn’t rule out the possibility that Giacomini, who was battling Carpenter for the starting job prior to Gallery’s injury, could see some playing time should Carpenter struggle.
And while Gallery is expected back, the Seahawks still will be missing a big part of their offense in receiver Sidney Rice, who has been ruled out with a shoulder injury. Rice, who also missed the season opener, practiced on a limited basis this week, but won’t play Sunday.
“Sidney won’t make it in this one, but he had a lot of work and gave us the thought that he has a pretty solid chance next week,” Carroll said.
With Rice out, Ben Obomanu gets the start again at receiver. Seattle also will have Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin in the mix, and after being inactive last week, rookie Kris Durham likely will play Sunday, Carroll said.
Linebacker David Hawthorne is listed as probable and is expected back after missing last week’s game with a knee injury.
Thin on special teams
With fullback Michael Robinson (ankle), cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle) and defensive end Dexter Davis (hip) all ruled out, and linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring) listed as doubtful, the Seahawks likely will be missing four key contributors on special teams. That’s bad news for a team that gave up two return touchdowns last week, and meant extra work this week for players who will have to do extra duty on special teams.
“We had a lot of work to catch some guys up,” Carroll said. “We had to make some decisions how to do that and to get that done, but we feel very good about it and the plan that we have allows even the alternative guys that have to come off the bench to play and understand what’s happening. So they need to come through, they need to step up. We definitely had a falter last week late and we can’t let that happen.”
Early wake-up call
In preparation for their first 10 a.m. PDT kickoff of the season, the Seahawks have been adjusting their schedule all week. Carroll moved practice times up, and players have been getting early wake-up calls every day. The Seahawks have struggled historically when heading east, so Carroll is hoping to make the adjustment easier by changing things up this week.
“They’re going to get a wake-up call at 6 a.m. West Coast time to go get ready for the football game, so all week long that’s what we dealt with,” Carroll said. “It’s just to make everybody aware and make the commitment solid for this preparation. There’s some historical numbers that back up that it’s more difficult going that way, so we’re going to try (to) right that.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog.