Steelers vs. Seahawks Expert Pick – December 31, 2023
STEELERS VS. SEAHAWKS EXPERT PICK – DECEMBER 31, 2023 – The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) travel out west to take on the Seattle Seahawks (8-7) in a matchup that has playoff implications for both teams.
The Seahawks currently hold the last playoff spot in the NFC while the Steelers must win their last two games to have any chance of making the postseason.
(8-7 SU, 8-7 ATS)
(8-7 SU, 8-5-2 ATS)
When: Sunday, December 31, 2023, at 4:00 PM ET
Where: Lumen Field
After losing three straight games, Mason Rudolph was named the starter over Mitch Trubisky and kept the Steelers playoff chances alive. Rudolph had the best game of his career leading the Steelers to a 30-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals throwing for 290 yards and two touchdowns.
This was by far the best quarterback performance of the season, leading Mike Tomlin to name Rudolph the starter this week against the Seahawks despite Kenny Pickett coming back from ‘tightrope’ ankle surgery.
“It feels like I’m on track with what I need to do,” Pickett said following practice Wednesday afternoon. “It’s really not how I feel. It’s what they see me doing and how they feel like I’m moving around and everything.”
Despite playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the world, Rudolph will look to take advantage of a Seahawks secondary that ranks 19th in the NFL. The Seahawks will try to limit the splash plays as George Pickens accounted for 195 of the total 290 passing yards with only four receptions.
Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll had a similar dilemma going into last week’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Geno Smith was given his job back after a two-game hiatus with a groin injury and led the Seahawks to a last second victory over the Titans.
He was inserted back into the lineup even after backup Drew Lock had his own comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles the previous week.
Seahawks Keys to Cover
The Seahawks’ defense leads the NFC with 45 sacks which is sixth most in the entire league, while the Steelers offensive line has struggled all season protecting the quarterback.
The offense will look to take shots down the field and exploit a Steelers defense dealing a slew of injuries which include safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebacker Elandon Roberts.
The Seahawks need to be ready for the Steelers to play more zone defense. Pittsburgh, typically a man-to-man defense, surprised the Bengals last week dropping into zone coverage forcing three interceptions. It will be interesting to see if rookie standout Joey Porter Jr. will shadow DK Metcalf, who has a lot of respect for the young defensive back.
“He’s a very smart corner. For him, just being a rookie, he’s made a lot of plays and taken on a lot of big receivers, said Metcalf about Porter. “So, he’s gonna be a fun matchup just going against him, knowing his dad was a heck of a football player for the same organization. So, I think it’s gonna be a good matchup.”
If the offensive line gives Geno Smith time, this could be a long day for the Steelers defense.
Steelers Keys to Cover
For coach Mike Tomlin to improve on his dismal 3-7 record in the Pacific time zone the Steelers must play mistake free football. The Steelers lead the league with a +10-turnover margin. This is due in large part to the pass rush led by sack leader T.J. Watt (17) and Alex Highsmith. With the injuries and the strong possibility Rudolph reverts to his old form, look for more of the same from this formidable duo.
One aspect of Rudolph’s game that impressed his teammates is his presence in the pocket. While Pickett looked to spin and run away from pressure, Rudolph stood tall and took shots.
“He’s probably super comfortable in the pocket because he’s no longer having to be in a pocket against Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt in practice with a scout-team offensive line,” safety Miles Killebrew said.
The new look offense will rely on the running game to take pressure off their backup quarterback. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren rushed for over 1400 yards combined and look to open the offense for the likes of Pickens who is ready to prove last week was no fluke.
With his breathtaking performance, Mason “The Rudolph” Reindeer gave many of the Steelers faithful an early Christmas gift last week. This week they don’t need the same results, just turnover-free football and that is what they get.
The Steelers have another heart-attack game and come back to win 27-25 keeping the door open for a playoff appearance.