5 things we learned from Steelers’ loss to Seahawks
Five things we learned from Seahawks 28, Steelers 26:
1. Clear and obvious?
Instant replay czar Al Riveron struck again, calling a pass interference penalty on Terrell Edmunds from his New York studio when no flag was thrown on the Heinz Field grass.
Riveron, famous in these parts for his decision that overturned a Jesse James touchdown catch against New England in 2017, used the phrase “clear and obvious” in his “visual evidence” to issue his ruling to a pool reporter that gave the Seahawks a 38-yard gain. This enabled the Seahawks to score three plays later on a 28-yard touchdown pass, in which Edmunds was victimized again, to take a 28-19 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sits on the NFL Competition Committee, which recommended to owners that pass interference calls – or non-calls – be subject to replay review. Tomlin, though, was not in favor of the change and he expressed frustration late Sunday afternoon with the implementation after the Steelers dropped to 0-2.
Riveron said he looked at “three or four” replay angles before making his determination. He decided that Edmunds “significantly hindered” wide receiver Tyler Lockett on the pass. Edmunds made contact, but whether he significantly hindered Lockett is subject to debate. And while it’s being debated, the Steelers will head to San Francisco with an 0-2 record for the first time since 2013.
2. Time ticking away
Emblematic of the defense’s problems through two games was the final series when Russell Wilson exhausted the final 5 minutes, 34 seconds to deny the Steelers any chance of a comeback.
One week after New England had a five-minute advantage in time of possession, Seattle possessed the ball 11 minutes longer than the Steelers.
The lack of an offensive flow is one reason the defense has been on the field so long, but it’s an inability to make stops – particularly at crucial junctures – that has been troublesome. The task doesn’t get any easier with a visit to the West Coast and a game at 2-0 San Francisco, which has put up 72 points through two weeks.
3. Who’s number two?
Donte Moncrief didn’t see the field after his drop-turned-interception on the Steelers’ first series of the second half. He played 18 of 57 snaps, which was appropriate considering he had four drops in the season opener.
The Steelers, though, haven’t found anyone else to step up and claim the No. 2 receiver spot so far. James Washington had two catches and rookie Diontae Johnson one in the loss to Seattle. Without a capable second option at receiver, the Steelers turned to tight end Vance McDonald, who was ignored at New England until the final meaningless drive of the 33-3 loss. McDonald had seven catches for 38 yards and two scores against Seattle.
Moncrief? That drop came on his only target and he’s holding at three catches for seven yards heading into the third week.
4. Running on empty
With three Pro Bowl players on the offensive line and another coming off his first all-star appearance in the backfield, big things were expected from the running game. So far, they haven’t materialized.
Before he exited with a knee injury, James Conner had a pedestrian 33 yards on 11 carries. He has 54 yards and is averaging 2.57 yards per carry on the season.
After abandoning the run because they trailed by 20 points at halftime in the opener, the Steelers were hoping to bring more balance to the offense against New England. But they ran it eight times in the first half compared to 15 pass attempts by Ben Roethlisberger before the 37-year-old quarterback left with an elbow injury.
Jaylen Samuels had some success in the second half after Conner’s departure and gained 18 yards on three attempts, and Benny Snell gained 23 yards on his only rush. Samuels would move into the starting role if Conner can’t go against the 49ers. At this point, a change of pace wouldn’t hurt the Steelers running game.
5. Getting his kicks
Concern over Chris Boswell’s right leg was a glaring issue heading into the season as everyone wondered whether he would repeat his disastrous 2018 season when he missed seven field goals and five extra points.
Early returns are encouraging. Boswell sent both of his field goal tries, covering 41 and 33 yards, down the middle. Boswell never got the chance to be the hero with a third field-goal attempt thanks to the defense failing to make a stop on Seattle’s final drive.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .