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Why the Steelers are the unchecked box on Geno Smith’s revenge tour

Destiny works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

Last year, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith had only wins against his previous three teams, culminating in the mathematical elimination of his original team, the New York Jets. He followed that up with a season-extending overtime victory against the Los Angeles Rams, against whom he played his first clean snaps in place of the injured Russell Wilson in 2021.

This year, once again with the playoffs on the line, Smith’s revenge tour has one more stop to make. In the penultimate week of the regular season, Geno will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same team he faced in his first start with the Seahawks. Sunday Night Football.

The final preview of the post-Wilson era was not promising. A bizarrely pass-heavy first half saw Smith throw for just 8/14 for 63 yards, with 0 points scored and only 3 first downs made. The success rate was 80-20 for no particular reason.

First-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron changed the game at halftime, choosing to establish the run to the Nth degree. The late Alex Collins stormed out of the gates with 56 rushing yards on 8 carries, deservedly scoring Seattle’s first touchdown. He would finish with 101 yards on 20 carries, the last 100-yard game of his career.

The next scoring drive involved Geno and tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly.

An interception bouncing off Jamal Adams’ helmet opened the door for Pittsburgh to retake the lead at 20-17, paving the way for Geno to tie the game or win. It was obvious that Seattle was leaning toward the field goal, even though DK Metcalf’s incredibly risky attempt to score a touchdown almost destroyed the entire mission.

In overtime, Geno had two chances to lead Seattle to an improbable road victory in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, TJ Watt got in his way.

Current Seahawks linebacker Devin Bush corrected himself to run the right way on the fumble recovery. Game, set and match. Geno’s only “turnover-worthy play” of the night was an actual turnover, and he essentially lost the game.

“I hate coming up short,” Smith said after the loss. “We cannot continue to be good enough. I can’t continue to fall short. I put it on myself. Back-to-back weeks our defense gives us a chance to go out there and score. Give me the ball and we won’t make it. It’s all up to me and I swear to be better.

Smith finished 23/32 for 209 yards and a touchdown, with an average depth of target of 4.1 yards, the second shortest of all his starts with the Seahawks. The plan was safe and conservative – all four screen passes went for -1 yard – perhaps indicative of both Geno as a backup at the time and the state of Seattle’s offensive line. Here are the Seahawks starters that day:

Left Tackle: Duane Brown
Left Guard: Damien Lewis
Center: Kyle Fuller
Right guard: Gabe Jackson
Right Tackle: Brandon Shell
Extra offensive lineman: Jamarco Jones

Geno was sacked 5 times on 11 pressures.

Not only is Lewis the only starter still with the Seahawks, but he is the only one on an active 53-man NFL roster. Brown just went on IR with the New York Jets, Fuller is in the USFL, Jackson is on the Carolina Panthers practice squad, Shell retired and Jones is unsigned. What a difference two years makes.

The 2023 edition of Steelers vs. Seahawks is something of a playoff eliminator for Pittsburgh and a must-win for Seattle to stay in a wild card spot. This is Geno’s chance to even the score and move his team closer to another playoff spot. Ideally, for a change, a last-minute trip won’t be necessary to win. If that’s what it comes down to, I think Smith has shown enough in his two seasons as a starter to indicate he’s capable of delivering in the clutch.

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