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Preview of Sunday's intriguing interconference showdown

Everything anyone needs to know about the Steelers-Seahawks game on Sunday afternoon.

MEMORABLE SERIES MOMENT

Steelers 27, Seahawks 21

Oct. 23, 1983: Kingdome

The Pittsburgh Steelers have traveled to Seattle seven times and this was their only win. That it was engineered by Cliff Stoudt against Jim Zorn, Curt Warner and Steve Largent, not to mention Seattle inside linebacker Keith Butler, is a bit of a surprise. But Stoudt completed 12 of 20 passes for 186 yards while Seattle QB Zorn was replaced at halftime by Dave Krieg, and the change stuck. Zorn fumbled and was intercepted to lead to the first two Steelers touchdowns and Warner fumbled to lead to a third. DE Keith Willis was the one-man wrecking crew for the Steelers with 3.5 sacks, but Krieg rallied the Seahawks from a 24-0 deficit and and had them at midfield with 1:44 left and two timeouts. However, with two yards needed to make a first down, Krieg's last passes were broken up by Donnie Shell and Dwayne Woodruff and the Steelers won. Krieg went on to lead the Seahawks to their first franchise playoff appearance that season and quarterbacked them the next eight years. Stoudt also quarterbacked the Steelers into the playoffs that season, but the playoff loss to the Raiders was his last start for the organization.

TALE OF THE TAPE

"The defense is just fun to watch. It's so good against the run with K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner on the inside. Those two guys play downhill, get off blocks, they don't stay blocked to be sure, and they're very sure, sound tacklers. Up front, the pressure comes from the outside in. Between Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, those two guys really, really come hard off that edge. They get after it with these very undisciplined rush lanes. They just come careening around, kind of like when you're playing pool and you hit the cue ball to break up the pack. They careen around and bang into each other, and in the end that ferocity and tenacity shows. They get after it." -- Steelers Radio sideline reporter Craig Wolfley.

TOP QUESTION

How well will the Steelers handle the noise?

At the start of the week, special-teams coordinator Danny Smith asked how many Steelers have played at Seattle's CenturyLink Field. Only five raised their hands. "Because of the noise," said long-snapper Greg Warren. "He didn't know if anybody knew, because in his opinion it's the loudest stadium in the league. He wanted guys to realize that we had to prepare for that."


David DeCastro, who's attended a games there as a fan growing up in the Seattle area, doesn't think the Steelers will have trouble with it. "We've been in noise before," he said. "We don't have anyone extremely new. Al (Villanueva) has played in Kansas City and it was pretty loud there. It's going to be obviously louder here but the silent count's still the same. Once you're on the silent count, the noise doesn't matter. We should be able to communicate fine. It just kind of adds that pressure, but honestly it makes it more fun. More adrenaline's going and you've got to be on top of it."

THREE QUESTIONS: With RG DAVID DECASTO

Q: You were a young Seattle fan in 2005. Is everyone there over the Super Bowl loss yet?

DD: "I'm sure they haven't forgotten but I barely even remember it. I was still kind of young, maybe a freshman, sophomore in high school. I was bitter for a little bit, like everyone else was."

Q: Which of the alleged bad calls by the officiating crew stands out in your mind?

DD: "I can't remember. Was there a PI?"

Q: Yes, a push-off that negated a touchdown. Let me ask you about your old college teammate, Richard Sherman. Was he the same back at Stanford?

DD: "Yeah, he was. He was a loud leader kind of guy. He played well but not as well as he has as a pro. I think he's gotten a lot better. He switched from receiver to cornerback in college, so he was still kind of learning, but he's obviously an extremely athletic talent who's only gotten better with time."

GAME BREAKDOWN

What to look for from the Steelers on Sunday at Seattle:

ON OFFENSE:

Villanueva got his baptism as a starting left tackle in Kansas City where the crowd is loud and the pass-rushers are fast and fierce. He gave up a key late sack in the loss but it was a great practice run for Seattle and right defensive end Avril, who had two sacks last week and shares the team lead with bookend Bennett at 6.5. The Seahawks may be without their third key pass-rusher, OLB Bruce Irvin, who was inactive last week and hasn't practiced this week because of a knee injury. Throwing on the Seahawks is always a risk with the talent they have in the secondary, but they've had problems at one corner spot and last week benched former Raven Cary Williams. Look for the Steelers to exploit that matchup with presumably Antonio Brown, since Sherman is a better physical matchup with Martavis Bryant.

ON DEFENSE:

Marshawn Lynch underwent surgery for a sports hernia this week. Last week, the "Mini Beast Mode," as Steelers linebacker Sean Spence calls rookie Thomas Rawls, rushed for 209 yards against San Francisco. It was Rawls' fourth start and third 100-yard game as he leads the Seahawks in rushing (604) and the league in average per carry (6.0). WR Doug Baldwin and TE Jimmy Graham lead the Seahawks with 44 receptions, but Graham is having trouble acclimating to the run-first mentality and in-line blocking chores. Keeping containment of QB Russell Wilson with a muddle rush is important for the Steelers, as is their seeming edge in the red zone. The Steelers rank 12th in red-zone defense and the Seahawks rank 31st in red-zone offense.
 
PREDICTION

Two similarly styled teams are playing with playoff urgency. The Steelers (6-4) can better afford a loss than can the Seahawks (5-5), but coming off a bye and a pair of wins has the Steelers highly motivated and enthusiastic about winning in a city that has been a house of horrors for them over the years. Over the last five games, both teams have played .540-level competition. The Steelers have the edge at the lines of scrimmage and in yards per point (scoring efficiency) but the Seahawks have the edge in pass defense. That may be the right fit for a Steelers team that has to defend fewer receiving threats. I look for a low-scoring nailbiter with the Steelers' health and fresh legs getting the slight edge over the Seahawks' historical home edge. Steelers, 20-19.

BY THE NUMBERS

813: Butler's career tackles total as an inside linebacker for Seattle from 1978-87. He's second to DB Eugene Robinson's 942. Earl Thomas is the active leader with 369.

0: Number of 300-yard passing games in series history. Ben Roethlisberger's 298 yards in 2011 is the high.

262: Roethlisberger's next touchdown pass will break a tie with Krieg (261) for 14th place on the NFL's all-time list.

147: Number of opponents' false starts at CenturyLink Field since 2005, an NFL high for any home field.

.707: Wilson's career winning percentage trails only Tom Brady (.783) among active quarterbacks. Roethlisberger is fifth at .669.

1,141: Brown's receiving yardage this season, second in the league behind Julio Jones' 1,189.

DOWNLOADS:

* Rawls, the 5-9, 215-pound Seattle running back, came out of Central Michigan undrafted after rushing for 1,103 yards in nine games (six starts) at CMU. The 4.65 40 he ran at the Combine may have had something to do with being undrafted. Or maybe it was the three felonies for which he was charged following an alleged purse-snatching from a 62-year-old woman at a casino while he was still at the University of Michigan. He transferred to CMU, was suspended two games after the charges came to light, and was later suspended from that season's bowl game for academic issues. Rawls accepted a plea deal but has publicly denied guilt for his role in the alleged crime.

* The Seahawks don't have any players remaining from the 2005 Super Bowl season, while Roethlisberger, Warren, Heath Miller and James Harrison remain with the Steelers. All four  will make their first appearances in a game in Seattle. "It's the last stadium that we've never played in," said Warren. "It'll be cool."

* Comparing Wilson to the since disgraced and benched Johnny Manziel, whom the Steelers defeated in their last game, doesn't make much sense, but Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell went there. "He's probably a little bit better. That's why he's Russell Wilson," Mitchell said. "He's very smart with the football. I know people give him a lot of flack for the interception he threw in the Super Bowl but the guy really does a good job of taking care of the football and putting his offense in great situations."

* Roethlisberger is planning to continue wearing a brace on his left knee but doesn't expect to wear his big left shoe -- dubbed "The Pee Wee Herman Shoe" by another reporter. "I hope not," Roethlisberger said of the big shoe. "My foot isn’t as swollen, so I don’t need to wear a bigger size."

* The Seahawks enter the weekend's slate of games tied with Carolina for the longest streak in the NFL of consecutive team 100-yard rushing games. The Seahawks have rushed for 100 or more yards in 21 consecutive games. The Steelers allowed 15 yards rushing in their last game.

PARTING SHOT

“I've played there three times. I don't know if that makes me a connoisseur of that stadium, but I've experienced it. And it's real. If you let them get in the game it will be really loud and it really will be hard to hear. I've beaten that team before, too. They're tough. It's a tough team. We're going to have to play a really good football game. And I think we're more than capable of doing that." -- Steelers FS Mitchell on playing in Seattle.


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