The Seahawks ran their 'base' defense almost the entire game against the 49ers because of Jim Harbaugh's decision to run a very vanilla offense. The 49ers never really forced Seattle to come out of it -- they ran on most third downs, going one for twelve on those attempts. They didn't really challenge down the field and played conservatively. I kind of doubt that the Steelers will use the same strategy. Eric Williams was talking about this on the Kevin Calabro show on Friday, and that he expects the Hawks to run a lot of two speed-end sets with Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock, and get Anthony Hargrove more involved on the defensive line.
Ben Roethlisberger is good in the pocket and escapes pressure well once he's flushed so the Hawks will want to throw defensive ends out there that can track him down. Further, with Willie Colon out for the year, the Seahawks will look to pick on rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert and exploit the Steelers' youth and inexperience on right side of the line.
The Steelers only ran the ball 16 times last week against the Ravens and threw it 41 times. Granted, they got down early so they were passing to get back into it, but if the Steelers again favor a pass-heavy offensive attack, especially if it's a close game or the Seahawks somehow get a lead, expect to see more of the Bandit package and more of a focus on blitzing to stop Big Ben and the Steelers' air-attack. Atari Bigby should get some reps, we may see rookie Jeron Johnson playing in the nickel.
The Steelers receiver corps is very good but they're not known for their size. I have to think that Walter Thurmond will play a bigger role this week as he matches up against the likes of Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Mike Wallace. Brandon Browner will still be a factor because he's good on the jam, but what the Steelers lack in size they make up for in speed. Mike Wallace led the league last year in yards per catch (21.0) and is a constant deep-threat. Earl Thomas will need to keep this in the back of his mind and not overcommit to the run or underneath routes.
The Hawks will undoubtedly look to establish the run but judging by the preseason and Week One, that won't come easy, especially against a stout Steelers defense. Because of this, I imagine the Hawks will look to supplement the run game with swing passes and half-roll outs, sort of similar to the game plan the Seahawks implemented against the Rams last year in Week 17. Get Tarvaris Jackson in a rhythm and take some pressure off of the offensive line. If this type of thing is not in their plans, here's to hoping they've got something else up their sleeve because I just don't see conservative play-calling, like we saw last Sunday, working well against this Pittsburgh team.
We've talked about this nearly ad nauseam this week, but with Mike Williams' inability to separate combined with Tarvaris Jackson's refusal to thread the needle, I'd guess that Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu will most likely get a lot of targets. Hopefully the Seahawks will find ways to get Golden Tate involved early as well.
I'll be very frustrated if we don't see Leon Washington get more carries this week. He was almost invisible last Sunday but when he's got the ball in his hands he's the Seahawks' best big-play threat. My guess is that if the Hawks have a prayer of grabbing a W this weekend, it will be because of a couple big plays that really throw Pittsburgh into a tailspin. We saw this happen with the special teams last year against San Diego, but the Seahawks offense will have to figure out a way to make this happen this week.
Zach Miller quietly had a pretty decent game last week against the 49ers and he'll look to get more involved with the offense as well. Hopefully fullback Eddie WIlliams is up to speed with this offense so Miller can stay on the line as a true tight end. I expect Anthony McCoy will get some targets as well as the Seahawks figure to run two tight end sets out there in an effort to stymie the Steelers' blitzing defense.
Speaking of that blitzing defense, the Hawks better have their hot reads worked out. If Jackson diagnoses a blitz, even after the snap, and can hit his outlet pass quickly and decisively, the Hawks offense should be able to function. If he is unable to do so, it's going to be a long, long day behind this young offensive line. Dick LeBeau has been known to bring well-disguised and effective blitzes, and even veteran and battle tested lines can have fits.
That's what I got right now. What are you guys going to be looking for?