The Seattle Seahawks will definitely have their hands full with the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, but if they lose, I'm not buying the time zone excuse or the travel excuse.
One excuse I will buy however is that the Steelers embarrassed themselves last weekend in Baltimore against the Ravens and will be motivated to redeem their reputation against the 0-1 Seahawks. That Steelers "rep" is built on three things that turned against them last Sunday:
1. No running allowed. Last season the Steelers did not allow a 100-yard rusher and only two teams (Patriots and Jets) ran for over 100 yards. They held opponents to a feeble 62.8 yards per game and the last time a running back gained over 100 yards against the Steel Curtain was in a late December game in 2009. That back was Baltimore's Ray Rice (30 carries for 141 yards). Rice did it again last weekend, running for 107 yards and the Ravens rolled up 170 yards total on the ground.
2. Sacks. The Steelers' quarterback sack totals over the last three seasons look like this:
2008: 51 sacks (No. 1 in NFL)
2009: 47 sacks (No. 2 in NFL)
2010: 48 sacks (No. 1 in NFL)
Their sack total last week against the Ravens last week – one sack.
3. Turnover ratio. Last season the Steelers were second in the NFL with a plus-17 turnover ratio. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the offense gave up 18 turnovers last year but the defense was able to get 21 interceptions and 14 fumbles.
The tally from last weekend: The Steelers gave up the ball seven times and caused zero turnovers on defense.
The Hawks face their old nemesis
No, I'm not talking about NFL official Bill Leavy. It's no secret that the Hawks have struggled on the road, especially when headed to the dreaded East Coast. But travel is not to blame because the Seahawks travel in style on the road. I'm not talking about first class seating or penthouse suites but I am talking about the most convenient travel possible for a large group of people.
No airport hassle. The team and staff go through the security screening process at the VMAC before they get on the buses. Once aboard the buses, a police escort takes the team directly onto the tarmac at SeaTac Airport and they walk right onto the plane. Buses and another police escort is waiting for the team on the other end as well. This cuts hours off of the normal time spent parking, waiting in lines, and going through the security and boarding process that the everyday traveler faces.
The plane. I had the opportunity to travel with the team to Denver this preseason. There's more food and drink on the plane than you could ever need and I'm not talking about a bag of peanuts and a can of pop. Hawaiian Airlines charters the team's flights and they lay out some good food with plates and real silverware! There's always at least one seat between you and the guy next to you so you don't have to listen to a tire salesman from Akron tell you his life story.
The hotel. Seahawks personnel that are sent two days in advance meet the team and staff in the lobby. Room keys and itineraries are laid out on tables and the players are in their rooms within minutes.
Game day More buses and more police escorts expedite the entire process, making road trips a breeze. Man, I miss traveling that way!
The time zone change. Head coach Pete Carroll tried something new this week that makes a lot of sense to me. The Hawks scheduled meetings and practices so that the team was on the field practicing between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. – the exact time of day that the Hawks will be playing the Steelers on Sunday.
I'll admit that getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. local time can be a bit of a shock to the system but once your pads are on and you're up and running around, you're awake no matter what time it is back home. Especially after that first hit that jars your brain awake whether you like it or not! I've always said that it doesn't matter what time it is back home – right here and now, it's time to play football.
With all that said, I would say that there is enough evidence to support the sentiment that the NFL should schedule West Coast teams playing in the East in that later time slot. But football is a tough game and no one said it was going to be easy.
Last season the Hawks had the biggest margin of loss in the NFL in their nine losses. I think most Seahawks fans are thinking that a win in Pittsburgh is pretty unlikely and I concur. But I'm hoping that they can at least make a game of it no matter what time it is back home.
I'll be on the air at 7 a.m. with Dori Monson, Sam Adkins and Mack Strong this Sunday for the pregame show on 710 ESPN Seattle. I promise that if I have a bad broadcast, it won't be because of the early start!