PITTSBURGH — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, drenched in water from head to foot, was all smiles during his press conference following Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Carroll was celebrating his 68th birthday, his 100th win as Seattle’s head coach, and a victory — imperfect as it was — in a city where the Seahawks hadn’t won in 20 years. So getting drenched with water in the locker room after the game was a consequence he was more than happy to accept.
Carroll and the Seahawks rode the strong arm of quarterback Russell Wilson and a series of clutch plays down the stretch to defeat the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers 28-26 Sunday at Heinz Field, Seattle’s first victory in Pittsburgh since 1999.
Wilson went 29-for-35 for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and led the Seahawks on three consecutive scoring drives during the second half as Seattle turned a 10-7 halftime deficit into a 28-19 lead. Then, after Pittsburgh took advantage of a Seahawks turnover to get within two points, Wilson engineered a drive that ran out the final 5 minutes, 34 seconds to secure the victory.
“It’s awesome to see coach Carroll in there, it’s his 68th birthday, he looks like he’s 38, he runs around like he’s 28,” said Wilson, who along with linebacker Bobby Wagner was part of the group that soaked Carroll. “Just to have him as our coach, as our leader in terms of how he brings it every day, his competitive nature, his consistency, I have a lot of respect for who he is as a person, who he is as a coach and what he’s meant to this city and this football team. To think about 100 wins with the Seahawks, that’s been special.”
Inch-perfect touchdown strikes to tight end Will Dissly and wide receiver DK Metcalf, sandwiched around Rashaad Penny’s 37-yard TD scamper, gave Seattle control in the second half of a game that was balanced on the edge of a knife at halftime. The Seahawks ended up out-gaining the Steelers 426 yards to 261 as they improved to 2-0, the first time Seattle has started the season with consecutive wins since the team’s Super Bowl-winning campaign in 2013.
Pittsburgh (0-2) had to make due without Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ longtime star quarterback, for the entire second half. Roethlisberger appeared inhibited during the first half, then gave way to Mason Rudolph after halftime because of an elbow ailment. Rudolph, a second-year player making his NFL debut, did enough to keep the Steelers in it, going 12-for-19 for 112 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“We felt like it was a good chance to seize the game,” Wagner said about Roethlisberger exiting the game. “We knew with the young guy they were going to try and establish the run a little more. They kind of went back to a traditional offense, because Big Ben is able to make so many checks that I don’t think the young guy is able to do yet. We had to have a different mindset, but we caught on pretty quick.”
Seattle’s offense surged in the second half in large part because of an adjustment made to keep Wilson upright. Wilson was stifled for much of the first half as he was sacked four times. But the Seahawks committed to having Wilson get rid of the ball quickly starting in the second quarter, and the change worked wonders.
”I think (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) did a great job of taking what they were giving,” Carroll said. “We put Russ in command of the rhythm of the game, and he did a great job on all the quick stuff. He did a great job throwing the seam routes to Diss for the two touchdown passes, but other than that I thought Russ’ rhythm really picked up and the sacks went away in the second half.”
Seattle’s assault began on its second possession of the second half, as Wilson found Dissly with a quick 12-yard strike to give the Seahawks a 14-10 lead. Then, after a Pittsburgh field goal, Penny made a vicious cut in the backfield and raced 37 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-13, with Wilson serving as the blocking escort all the way to the end zone.
Pittsburgh pulled within two on Rudolph’s 8-yard TD pass to Vance McDonald, though the Seahawks maintained their lead as Lano Hill intercepted the two-point conversion attempt. Then Seattle responded with another long scoring drive — aided by a Carroll challenge that turned a non-call into a 38-yard pass-interference penalty — culminating with Wilson throwing a perfect 28-yard strike down the left sideline to Metcalf for the rookie receiver’s first career touchdown.
Seattle seemed to have the game in hand when it forced Pittsburgh into a three-and-out with 5:49 remaining. However, on the following play Chris Carson never secured the handoff, with Devin Bush recovering and returning the ball to the Seattle 3-yard line. One play later, Rudolph hit McDonald again to make it 28-26.
Seattle was left with the task of trying to run out the final 5:34. Wilson completed short passes, then scrambled 10 yards for one first down and 15 yards on third-and-16 to set up a fourth-and-one at the Pittsburgh 33 at the two-minute warning. The Seahawks decided to go for it and handed the ball to Carson, despite Carson having lost two fumbles in the game. Carson gained 2 yards behind the left side of the offensive line for a first down, and Seattle was able to run out the clock.