The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) are coming off of a bye at a critical time before they go on the road to face the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle was able to get by a struggling San Francisco 49ers team that was without veteran quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday, moving to 5-5 on the season. Pittsburgh appears to be on the rise after watching their AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals fall in their last two games and having a week off to prepare for the final six games of the 2015 NFL regular season, giving them an opportunity to take the division and enter the playoffs if they can start by dismantling Seattle in hostile territory.
Seattle has struggled with veteran quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm this season. Wilson had the best game of this season on Sunday, completing 83 percent of his throws but got a big boost from running back Thomas Rawls due to the abdominal injury of veteran rusher Marshawn Lynch. Rawls rumbled for 209 yards on the ground while Wilson completed 24-of-29 passes. The mediocre ways aren’t over for Seattle, however.
There are three keys to the Steelers coming out as victors in Week 12 against Seattle. Two of them have little to do with the Steelers’ game plan and everything to do with areas that the Seahawks are simply not able to overcome, even against opponents who have had little to offer in the way of competition. The Steelers will provide plenty of that.
Protect Ben Roethlisberger
With the Seattle Seahawks defense recording over 20 sacks this season, the key to an effective offensive performance for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 12 will be for the offensive line to offer quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the necessary protection. Roethlisberger will lean heavily on running back DeAngelo Williams in the run game and the Steelers, with Cody Wallace at center and Alejandro Villanueva subbing on the offensive line for Kelvin Beachum it will be key to not only pass block but open holes for the running game. By offering Roethlisberger the time he needs in the pocket, it should allow receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton time to get open on routes against a Seattle secondary that has not been as spectacular in 2015.
Turn Cam Heyward loose on defense
The Steelers are ranked in the top ten in the league through Week 10 in stopping the run. With the struggles Russell Wilson has had in creating high passing yards, the Seahawks have relied on the running game for critical yardage on offense. Cam Heyward has been playing at a high level all season and the Steelers should turn him loose in different defensive packages in order to maximize pressure on Wilson and also help stop the run. Pressure up front will allow the Steelers defense to force Seattle to be one-dimensional once again this week on offense and should give the Pittsburgh secondary time to react to any throws Wilson attempts.
Get Heath Miller involved early
One area where Seattle has struggled in 2015 is in stopping teams that have big, strong tight ends. With Pete Carroll’s contain defense, receivers are often forced inside, but that has allowed tight ends to seek the middle of the field for openings and big yardage. Miller has been under-utilized this season by Pittsburgh mainly due to teams forcing pressure on three different quarterbacks: Mike Vick, Landry Jones and Ben Roethlisberger. With Roethlisberger showing that his knee and foot injury couldn’t keep him from a performance that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors as Jones’ backup in Week 10, Miller should be activated in the passing game early. Roethlisberger and Miller have a history of finding a way to create magic when given the opportunity and if Seattle once again shows an inability to cover the tight ends, Miller could have a spectacular game on Sunday.