Injuries Will Play A Big Role When the Steelers Host the Seahawks on Sunday Night

(Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave fans a chance to breathe this past Sunday by snapping their three-game losing streak with a 27-19 win over the Denver Broncos.  Just when the media had begun to count them out, the offense turned in a solid performance against a Broncos defense that had been stout thus far.  The Steelers will look to carry that momentum into this Sunday, when they host the Seattle Seahawks on national television for Sunday Night Football.  Let's take a look at this week's matchup and how injuries will have a significant impact on the game.

Suffering Seattle Seahawks

The big injury news that came out of this past week's games was the hand injury that forced quarterback Russell Wilson out of Thursday night's game against division foe, the Los Angeles Rams.  After the injury occurred, the camera panned to Wilson walking off the field with a mangled middle finger on his throwing hand, which inevitably led to him not returning to the game.  The diagnosis was a fracture and ruptured tendon, which required surgery and will keep him out for four-eight weeks.  In his absence, Geno Smith (remember him?) will be the one to lead their offense going forward.

While the Seahawks yesterday worked out free agent quarterback Blake Bortles to provide some depth to the position, it will still be Geno Smith at the helm Sunday night.  That's great news for the Steelers.  Wilson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL.  He is able to beat you with both his arm and his legs, so losing him greatly affects the Seattle offense and its playmaking ability.  

Smith hasn't had much success in pro football, starting in only two of his eight seasons in the NFL.  Last week, Smith saw his most snaps in a game since 2017.  All of this makes me think the Seahawks will lean heavily on the run game, although that doesn't come without its own injury concerns.  

Top running back Chris Carson missed last Thursday night's game with a neck injury, thrusting backup Alex Collins into the lead role.  As it was a short week for the Seahawks, Carson sat out, but I'm not so sure that will be the case this week following 10 days of rest.  In the past, he has been known to play through numerous injuries over the course of a season, therefore I anticipate him returning this Sunday and being the focal point of the offense.

Steelers Also Banged Up

The Steelers win against Denver did not come without their own injury issues.  Wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out the rest of the game.  Following the game, it was announced that the injury required surgery and that Smith-Schuster would be out for the rest of the season.  

This will certainly affect the receiving corps, but fortunately wide receiver is one of the deepest positions on the roster.  And to bolster it even more, the team went out and signed Anthony Miller yesterday, who was just released from the Houston Texans this past week.  Miller had a solid year for the Chicago Bears last season, amassing 49 catches for 485 yards and two touchdowns.

With Juju injured, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger really spread the ball around on his 25 pass attempts.  Chase Claypool led all Steelers in targets with just six.  I would expect more of the same this week.  

The Seahawks have not been very effective in defending the passing game this season, surrendering 365 passing yards to Rams quarterback Matt Stafford just last week.  While the Juju loss definitely hurts, I don't anticipate it hindering the pass attack in this game.  We also got to see the emergence of running back Najee Harris against the Broncos last week, securing his first 100+ yard rushing game in the pros.  Facing a Seahawks defense that is giving up almost 27 points per game this season, there should be plenty of opportunity for the Steelers to take advantage of them with their many offensive threats.

Concluding Thoughts

My expectations for this game would not be nearly as high if Russell Wilson were playing, but with Geno Smith leading the Seahawks offense, my confidence has been rejuvenated.  It had been a long time since Smith's services were required for real game action and that was evident last week when he threw an interception while trying to lead his team to a game-winning touchdown.  

Also factor in that this game will be under the lights on national television at a raucous Heinz Field and I just see the spotlight being too bright for him.  If the Steelers can continue to play like they did last week, as opposed to the three weeks prior, I think they should be able to take this one handedly and insert themselves back into contention within the division.

(Graphic obtained from @SNFonNBC Twitter Account)