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Winners and Losers from Steelers 30, Seahawks 23

The defense has no winners.

Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks (8-8) had a playoff spot in their hands and pissed it away. A 30-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) has them relying on Week 18 help yet again in order to get into the postseason. It was a home game by location only, as the Steelers fans filled up Lumen Field and made it seem like a neutral site venue.

It’s time for the final Winners and Losers of 2023.


Winners

DK Metcalf

Metcalf led the team with 5 catches for 106 yards. The “drop” he had I think would’ve been irrelevant because the pass led him out of bounds. He had a holding penalty on a Kenneth Walker run that proved vital, but he also had a great block that helped Walker get into the end zone earlier in the game.

DK was the best player on Seattle’s offense. No, you don’t trade him.

Noah Fant

You wanted tight ends involved? You got it. Fant had 5 catches for 59 yards, and when you add in Colby Parkinson’s 2 catches for 38 yards, the tight ends had almost 100 total yards receiving.

Kenneth Walker

Playing through pain in his right shoulder, Walker had 75 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. The holding penalty on Metcalf prevented K9 from having over 100 scrimmage yards for the day. His speed and short-space agility are two things that separate him from Zach Charbonnet, and I yearn for an offensive line good enough to give him more room to operate.

Jason Myers

Three field goals, three makes. Not much more you could ask for given his up-and-down season!

Losers

The entire defense

This falls on everyone. Won’t even bother with giving individuals their specific slots because what’s the point? Adjusting for opponent, that might have been one of the worst defensive showings of the entire Pete Carroll era. They did almost nothing well. No turnovers, one sack, 8/16 combined on 3rd/4th downs, 30 points allowed and it could’ve been 37 if Najee Harris didn’t slide early. Pittsburgh posted a season-high 468 yards of total offense and 25 first downs (none via penalty).

Mike Jackson Sr was getting cooked by George Pickens. Riq Woolen’s tackling woes continued and while I doubt he makes any real impact on the play, watching him be a bystander on the last Harris touchdown run was staggering. It looks like Julian Love was also culpable on multiple busted coverages.

Missed tackles from Quandre Diggs, Devon Witherspoon (yes, he got a TFL but he had two misses), Love, and a host of others told the story. Over 200 yards rushing allowed, 10.6 yards per pass attempt to third-string QB Mason Rudolph, and (subtracting the Geno Smith turnover) six drives that ended in Seattle’s red zone.

The Seahawks pass rush is not consistent enough despite the sacks they generate. They are not sound in coverage on a consistent basis. Their linebacker play is exploited every week. Devin Bush had 17 tackles and several of them were after a “successful play” and/or a first down was achieved. They’re physically overwhelmed by teams that want to play physical football.

I guess Leonard Williams and Jarran Reed were the “standouts” today but it wasn’t like they were innocent in Pittsburgh getting whatever they wanted for the majority of the day.

You cannot defend that performance even one bit. Jordyn Brooks is out? That sucks. Seattle isn’t the only team navigating injuries to key players. We’ve seen this ineptitude even when Brooks and Jamal Adams and Uchenna Nwosu have played.

Pete Carroll

The Seahawks punted on 4th and 1 from midfield on the opening drive. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession after converting on a 4th and inches from a similar spot on the field. Carroll made basically no effort to be aggressive from the get-go, and then wasted a timeout with a totally worthless challenge on George Pickens stepping out of bounds sooner than he actually did. Do you realize how conservative you have to be to be less conservative than Mike Tomlin?

The onside kick decision with 2:01 was just bad. Seattle only had two timeouts thanks to that awful challenge, and any returned kick would take that two-minute warning stoppage away. Only one onside kick has been recovered all season (to my recollection). Kicking it deep at least pins the Steelers at their 25, and then it’s up to the defense to get a stop.

An onside kick recovery puts Pittsburgh in a spot where they can kick a field goal to go back up by 10, even without a first down.

This was a poorly managed game and the defense being poorly prepared falls squarely on Coach Carroll.

Clint Hurtt

Earlier in the week, I did the Field Gulls Mailbag and said I don’t think either Shane Waldron or Clint Hurtt is in jeopardy of losing their jobs. I’d like to retract that statement. That game tips the scales against Hurtt. Yes, it’s Pete Carroll’s defense, but no one has run the defense to worse results than Hurtt. The missed tackles, the blown assignments, the repeated inability to get 3rd down stops, it is beyond unacceptable. It truly doesn’t matter who is out there because the results have been poor at full strength and with multiple starters missing.

A bad defense can at least do something positive and generate turnovers, but the Seahawks have failed to get a takeaway six times this season, which is a new franchise record.

The Hurtt appointment given the lackluster play of the defensive line under his watch was a curious choice. It has not worked out. I’m sympathetic to the human element of letting go of Hurtt, who lost his mother in October. It’s obviously been an emotional time for Hurtt given he’s had to coach while grieving. From a business/football standpoint, it’s an unforgiving world. Ultimately, I believe Pete’s move will be to find a new defensive coordinator. But it’s also time for him to stop promoting from within.

Tyler Lockett

Lockett had just one catch for 10 yards, and had two passes (albeit one that was nearly picked off) bounce off his hands. A really ineffective performance from one of the most reliable receivers on the team.

Could’ve been a winner, but...

Geno Smith

The fumble in itself shouldn’t undo how well Smith played. He had only one clearly risky throw on the second drive of the game, otherwise he wasn’t putting the ball in harm’s way. A 23/33 for 290-yard performance and 23 points on 9 drives is not an offensive explosion, but it’s efficient football. His pocket movement saved him from getting sacked more than just the one time—he absorbed 9 QB hits.

However, the fumble was bad and I’m sure he knows it too. We don’t have the All-22 but Smith hung onto the ball too long, and it turned a 7-point game into a 10-point game. Chances are, even if he leads a game-tying touchdown drive, the Seahawks defense would’ve folded up and Pittsburgh would hit a walkoff field goal, but we’re left to our own imagination on that front. I don’t think Geno should be a loser but that turnover is grounds to not make him a winner.

Up until that point, there was very little to fault Geno on, it’s just that the timing and area of the field for that turnover was a big hit. The offense only had 49 plays and scored 23 points, it’s not their problem that the Seahawks defense was a bigger threat to them than the Steelers. Seattle had 5 scoring possessions, and the defense gave up points immediately after on 4 occasions. The only reason it wasn’t 5/5 is because the Steelers ran the clock out. If “best offense in the NFL” is a requirement to win that game, then Seattle is not close to real Super Bowl contention any time soon.

And for that matter, Charles Cross belongs in the same category given his role on this play. I am worried about Cross’s tendency to get beaten by speed on the edge, though.

Final Notes

  • Injuries, injuries, injuries. Abe Lucas experienced discomfort with his knee again, and Evan Brown got concussed. The offensive line just could not sustain great health this year, which is just bad luck more than anything.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba only had one catch and two targets. Weird game in terms of his lack of involvement, but at least he got a touchdown.
  • I got nothing else. Have a safe and happy new year, everyone.