PITTSBURGH—For the second week in a row, Geno Smith played well down the stretch to help the Seahawks battle back from a two-score deficit, but for the second straight game, a turnover ended Seattle's hopes for a victory.
In Sunday night's 23-20 overtime loss to the Steelers, Smith and the Seahawks offense got going in the second half to erase a 14-0 halftime deficit, but while Smith was able to lead a final drive in regulation to set up the game-tying field goal, he fumbled on a first-down scramble in overtime, which led to the Steelers' game-winning field goal.
"I hate coming up short," Smith said. "But (it was a) hard-fought game. I love the way our line played, they really set the tone in that second half, really gave us a chance to come back and win it. That last drive, that's all I was thinking—just take us down there and score somehow, some way. We can't keep coming up short. I can't keep coming up short. I put that on myself. Back-to-back weeks. Our defense gives us a chance to go out there and score, give me the ball, and we don't get it done. That's solely on me. I've got to be better."
But while Smith was hard on himself for that turnover, his head coach and teammates had nothing but good things to say about the way he handled his first start since 2017. With Russell Wilson on injured reserve following last week's finger injury, Smith is in line to start at least two more games, and while this one didn't end the way the Seahawks wanted, he showed he is ready for the opportunity.
"I thought he was solid," Pete Carroll said. "I thought he managed the game well, he gave us a chance to win the football game. Unfortunately, he gets the ball knocked out on that last play… It was a great hit. It kills him, because Geno knows these are extraordinary opportunities for him, and he wants to come through, and he wants to show that he can do it and play, and all that, and it's kills him that he wasn't able to finish it. But I thought he played tough as hell, and I thought he was clear and calm and poised, exactly like you'd hoped he would be, and this game was not too big for him at all, he was right there."
Prior to that fumble, Smith was a solid 23 for 32 for 209 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. It wasn't necessarily a spectacular performance, but it was more than enough to put the Seahawks in a position to win.
"Geno did a great job," said tight end Will Dissly, the recipient of Smith's touchdown pass. "He came prepared… I had no doubt that Geno was going to come out and perform. Some things didn't go our way tonight, and that's no reflection of 7. He came out and competed just like we all did, and we've just got to find a way to get him a win next week."
Since joining the Seahawks in 2019, Smith had played only sparingly prior to Wilson's injury last week, and he hasn't been a regular starter since 2014, his second year in the league, but what he has shown, even in losses, is that he can handle the starting job, as well as the pressure that comes with filling in for a future Hall of Famer.
"I thought he did well, I thought he handled the pressure well," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. "Filling a guy like Russell's shoes is not an easy task for anybody, so whenever something happens, the first thing everybody's is going to do is compared to what Russell would have done. That's a lot of pressure, but for him to have that type of pressure and come back and be as poised as he was in the second half and give us opportunity to win the game, that's something that you can respect, and I feel like he can grow, and we can move forward to our next game and really build off that."
As for that game-changing fumble, Smith said he didn't see All-Pro defensive end T.J. Watt chasing him after Smith had tucked the ball to run up the middle.
"I didn't see him," Smith said. "I had two hands on the ball, was getting ready to tuck it and get as many yards as I could, and slide. He's a great player."
For years, being a backup has meant that Smith prepares every week like he's going to play, even if that isn't usually the case. And while Smith would have preferred he could have finished the job and led a game-winning drive, he did appreciate getting to once again start and play a full game.
"I'm always focused on the task at hand," Smith said. "I wasn't thinking about myself. But I would say I was super calm in the moment. I just felt like the whole time I was just staying in the moment. And it was fun. It was awesome, it really was, to be out there with the guys competing, giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously, we didn't get it done, but it was fun to be out there."