A day after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted that his All-Pro free safety was "just trying too hard" on a few of the big plays Pittsburgh had against the Seahawks on Sunday, Earl Thomas at first wasn't sure if he agreed with his coach's assessment.
"Pete said that about me?" Thomas said before offering a wry smile. "I felt like I was in (Ben) Roethlisberger's mind. I just feel like I was out there having fun."
But then again, Thomas had to admit that his coach has seen and lived a lot more football than he has, so he conceded, "Coach Carroll, he sees some blind spots. He's old. He's been around this game for a long time. He might be about 80 years old, 70. He understands football."
And even if Thomas felt like he was "in Roethlisberger's mind" at times, the Steelers quarterback did pass for 456 yards against Seattle, including a 69-yard touchdown to Markus Wheaton that happened in part because Thomas abandoned his deep-middle responsibility early when he saw Roethlisberger scrambling.
"I just felt like I was right where I needed to be, except one time I was a little aggressive," Thomas said. "Just like Aaron Rodgers did, scrambling, throwing off of his back foot, crazy throw, but it was a great throw by him. He's a great player. It was a deep bomb to (Wheaton) and they scored. If he's talking about that one, he's correct. He told me early on in the week, don't do it. My instincts did it, and boom. It happened."
In addition to calling his boss "old," not to mention correct, here's what stood out from Thomas' Thursday press conference:
1. Trust can be elusive, but the defense is getting there.
Thomas is usually more willing than most professional athletes to give an honest assessment of himself or his team, and at times this year he has questioned the effort and the level of trust he and his teammates have played with this season. Things have improved as this season has gone on, but Thomas knows they have to keep working to maintain that level of trust and the positives results that it brings.
"Why does it come and go?" he said. "It's a lot because you're dealing with an individual person. Everybody's going through their own battles, whether you're battling and having a good game, and now you've got to go back and do it again. Once you have that good game, everybody's telling you how good you are, so now you're feeling yourself a little bit and sometimes you get out of whack. It's just a bunch of emotions and feelings involved, but the quicker we can get back to the ones that we need, that's the best that we can do. I think we'll be all right."
Thomas says the level of trust on the team right now is "great," which is important, because, "if there's no trust, there's no accountability, we can't contain a quarterback. Everybody has a set job, especially in this defense. We're playing a single safety high, eight men in a box, and everybody has a set role."
2. The Seahawks are facing an elite running back.
One week after facing a Steelers offense that threw 59 passes and ran the ball 14 times, with only eight of those runs by a running back, the Seahawks will face a Vikings offense that relies heavily on Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher this season with 1,164 yards.
"It's a big shift," Thomas said. "We know they want to feature the running game. They have a great running back. They have receivers that can get down the field, but we've definitely got to stop the run."
The Seahawks have faced Peterson twice before in recent years, holding him to 65 yards on 21 carries in 2013, but allowing 182 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries the year before.
"He's elite," Thomas said. "He has God-given ability. When he's out there you can just tell, you can sense it. He's just one tackle away. Hopefully we can swarm and gang tackle."
To tackle Peterson, Thomas says he and his teammates need to "wrap and squeeze. We've got to understand leverage tackling, understand our situation on the field, and we've got to use each other out there. That's when we're at our best."
3. The defense appreciated a big performance by the offense.
Throughout Carroll's tenure in Seattle, the Seahawks have played a lot more games in which the defense helped out a struggling offense than the other way around, but in Sunday's win, the offense more than did its part, scoring 39 points to outduel Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense. That big performance by Russell Wilson and the offense didn't go unnoticed by their defensive counterparts.
"Our offense is doing really well, and that gives me a lot of confidence," Thomas said. "It makes me happy, makes me want to prepare better, prepare harder just to help them out. I think everybody feels the same way.
"That's what you want. You want your offense to be out there. They play with a lot of fire. (J.R. Sweezy) comes off the field and you could see it in his eyes. He looked at me and was like, 'You better get the ball back.' They want the ball, they're very hungry. You can see Russ, he's in the zone, so we've got to hold up on our end. We're up to the challenge."
The Seahawks will kick off the 2023 Preseason at Lumen Field against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, August 10, 2023. Check out action photos from throughout the years of their matchups.