The first word out of Red Bryant’s mouth in the locker room was “frustrating.”
The usually gregarious defensive end then used either “frustrated” or “frustrating” another half dozen times during a short and somber interview, and they were as good as any terms to describe the Seahawks’ 24-0 loss to Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Even more telling, the frustration of this afternoon was etched on Bryant’s face.
The Seahawks were shutout for the first time in Pete Carroll’s 20-game tenure as coach and for the first time since, well, the last time they played here – 21-0 in Week 5 of the 2007 season. That’s a span of 64 games between pointless efforts, including playoffs.
“It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating,” Bryant said. “I feel like the defense was fighting extremely hard. But to allow them to go out there and dictate to us what the tempo was going to be, it was very frustrating. I don’t know what else to say, we’re frustrated. I’m frustrated.”
The really frustrating part was that the game wasn’t even as close as the lopsided score.
The Seahawks crossed midfield only once in each half. They reached the Steelers’ 47-yard line in the second quarter, only to have an offside penalty move the ball back to their own 48. In the second half, they got as far as the Steelers’ 26, before a delay-of-game penalty on fouth-and-3 was followed by one of Pittsburgh’s five sacks of Tarvaris Jackson.
The final statistics said – no, shouted – it all.
The Steelers held a decisive advantage in time of possession (38:44 to 21:16) because they had huge edges in third-down efficiency (8 of 15 to 2 of 12 for the Seahawks), plays (68-47), average gain per play (6.2-3.5), rushing yards (124-31), passing yards (297-133) and, of course, total yards (421-164).
Individually, Jackson was the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 12 yards, compared to 66 for the Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall; while Ben Obomanu was the Seahawks’ leading receiver with four catches for 35 yards, compared to eight for 126 for the Steelers’ Mike Wallace.
If you’re looking for a nutshell to crack to explain what happened, try this one: The Steelers gained almost as many yards on their eight third-down conversions (155) as the Seahawks had for the entire game.
Ben Roethlisberger was 22 of 30 for 298 yards. He passed for one TD and had other key completions to set up scoring runs by Mendenhall (1 yard) and Isaac Redman (20 yards).
“The truth is, Big Ben just got the better of us today,” Bryant said.
Carroll did the P.C. thing after what was a long, frustrating afternoon. He gave credit to the Steelers, who used the Seahawks as a trampoline to bounce back from their 35-7 opening-day loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. He also hoisted the blame for the Seahawks’ second loss in as many games upon his shoulders.
“We played a very good team today that really did the things they needed to do,” Carroll said. “We didn’t have enough firepower to offset that.
“This is a process we’re in and it’s a hard lesson we have to learn to come out here and go at these guys and really not accomplish anything. But we know who they are and we have to respect that.”
As for his own team, Carroll offered, “I’ve got to help more. I told the players in the locker room that I’m not helping them enough. I’ve got to do a better job of finding ways to move the football and make plays on third downs.”
The next opportunity to do that comes next Sunday, when the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals in their home opener at CenturyLink Field.
The area that needs the most improvement is obviously the slow-starting offense, which generated 37 first-half yards in the opening-day loss to the 49ers in San Francisco and had 81 in the first 30 minutes against the Steelers.
“We just didn’t show up as an offense,” said Jackson, who has been sacked 10 times in two games. “We didn’t play well at all. We didn’t get a rhythm. We couldn’t put two third-down conversions back-to-back.”
The idea behind the Seahawks’ offense is to set up the play-action passing game with the running game. But with the Seahawks producing 95 rushing yards and a 2.7-yard average in two games, something obviously is missing – and amiss.
“We need more explosive plays, we need more plays down the field,” Jackson said. “We need to get our running game going. If we get our running game going it will help with those explosive plays. We can play-action those guys and kind of get them up and go over the top of them. But they’re not going to respect the play-action if we’re not really running the ball.