The 8-7 Seahawks prepare to take on the 8-7 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday for matchup No. 20 all-time between the two franchises. Here are six things to know about Seattle's Week 17 AFC opponent.
QB Carousel: Rudolph at Starter; Pickett in recovery
In Week 16, sixth-year Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph saw game action for the second time this season, making his first start, and he threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns as Pittsburgh secured a 34-11 win over the Bengals to keep their playoff hopes alive. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett continues to recover from an ankle injury, while Rudolph has taken starter reps this week in preparation for Sunday's matchup against Seattle. This week, Rudolph discussed his respect for Seattle quarterback Geno Smith’s journey from longtime journeyman to starter.
"It's an instant gratification league," said Rudolph. "I have a lot of respect for Geno Smith. What an inspiration he is to a lot of guys and how he battled through. Sometimes there's a quick trigger, but that doesn't mean you can't overcome and come back and make a resurgence."
George Pickens: Putting it All Together
Second-year Steelers wideout George Pickens climbed above the 1,000-yard mark last week, catching four passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns to spark a victory over the Bengals. On the year, the Georgia alum has caught 56 passes for 1,009 yards and five touchdowns. After being selected in the second round of the 2022 draft by Pittsburgh, Pickens caught 52 passes for 801 yards and four scores as a rookie. Sunday's 100-yard receiving game is Pickens' first since Week 7's 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams, and the first time he has scored since a Week 8 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seattle will look to prevent Pickens from becoming a factor this week, as the Seahawks look to extend their win streak to three-straight while continuing a recent trend of limiting explosive plays.
T.J. Watt: One of A Kind
After a torn pectoral muscle limited him to 10 games and 5.5 sacks in 2022, Steelers seventh-year linebacker T.J. Watt is back to his game-wrecking self in 2023. Through 15 games played, the Wisconsin alum has 17 sacks, four forced fumbles, three recoveries, eight passes defensed and an interception. Pittsburgh comes into Sunday's matchup tied for eighth league-wide in sacks (42), with Watt recording 3.0 sacks in his last two games. Protecting the pocket is key for Seattle, and slowing down the 29-year-old Watt will be a top priority.
Steelers Defense: Winning the Turnover Battle
The Pittsburgh Steelers forced three interceptions in their 34-11 over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. Currently, the Steelers are tied for No. 6 league-wide in takeaways with 24, and Pittsburgh is tied for third in interceptions (16), and with all of those takeaways, the Steelers are tied for the NFL lead in turnover differential at plus-10. Four Steelers (Patrick Peterson, Levi Wallace, Damontae Kazee, Alex Highsmith) have recorded multiple interceptions this season. In addition to the quartet with multiple interceptions, eight more Steelers have recorded an interception in 2023.
Elandon Roberts: Out (Pectoral)
Eighth-year Steelers linebacker Elandon Roberts has combined for a team-leading 100 tackles through 15 games played, marking his second-consecutive 100-plus-tackle season. But Roberts suffered a pectoral injury in Sunday's 34-11 win over the Bengals, forcing him to miss both Wednesday and Thursday's practices. Head Coach Mike Tomlin ruled the University of Houston alum out on Tuesday, as he addressed local media at the team's presser. On Thursday, Roberts commented about missing Week 17's action, as he looks to expedite his recovery process to return in 2023.
"I'm taking it one day at a time," said Roberts. "But if you know me - don't count me out."
In addition to 100 tackles, Roberts has posted 10 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two passes defensed.
The injuries at linebacker could mean a big role for Bellevue High School graduate Myles Jack, who was elevated off the practice squad for last week's game.
Minkah Fitzpatrick: DNP (Knee)
Steelers' seventh-year safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a knee injury that forced him to miss Week 16's win over the Bengals. Fitzpatrick suffered the knee injury in Pittsburgh's Week 15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Alabama alum has fought through injuries throughout the year, playing 10 games. In that span, Fitzpatrick has recorded 64 combined tackles and three passes defensed. The possible absence of the three-time first-team All-Pro selection could be a major blow to a Steelers defense with injuries across the secondary. Fellow safety Trenton Thompson looks to play on Sunday (neck), after being limited on Wednesday and being a full participant on Thursday.
The Seahawks and Steelers face off on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Steelers.