RENTON, Wash. — For the first time since their Super Bowl season of 2013, the Seattle Seahawks have started 2-0. The way they’ve gotten there still leaves questions about just how good they are.
Yes, the last time Seattle was at this point it ended the year raising the championship trophy. Yes, Russell Wilson is commanding and executing Seattle’s offense at a level that will have him in the MVP conversation if this continues. Yes, Seattle dominated stretches of Sunday’s game and only two turnovers leading to short field goals kept Pittsburgh hanging around before the Seahawks prevailed 28-26.
But they remain flawed. The Seahawks are allowing too much pressure on Wilson, who’s been sacked eight times. They’ve been penalized 18 times in two games, regularly leaving the offense in unmanageable down-and-distance situations. The defensive line struggles to create consistent pressure even with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney.
The Seahawks own a one-point win over Cincinnati, which was playing without standout wide receiver A.J. Green, and a two-point win over Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger spending half the game on the sideline. Now they are set to play host to New Orleans, which is expected to be playing without Drew Brees.
“I am proud of how the guys played,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “I thought our young guys focused, the way we practiced. Now we just have to lock in and not let this win go to our heads.”
WHAT’S WORKING — Wilson is off to a fantastic start in his eighth season. He’s completing 78 percent of his passes, has thrown for five touchdowns and no interceptions, and is taking advantage of opportunities to run rather than running for his life. Wilson was 29-of-35 for 300 yards and three TDs against the Steelers. Wilson also seems to be meshing with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. With Pittsburgh able to get pressure on Wilson in the first half, the Seahawks adjusted and went to a quick passing game that got the ball out of Wilson’s hands quickly. Wilson was 14-of-16 and threw two touchdowns in the second half.
“It’s hard to imagine something could keep getting better when you’re in year eight or whatever it is,” coach Pete Carroll said. “How could that happen? But it is. It’s happening.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP — Carroll is not happy with the offensive line and the amount of penalties being accumulated. Seattle offensive linemen were called for holding six times, although not all were accepted. Right guard D.J. Fluker and right tackle Germain Ifedi both had noticeably tough days dealing with Pittsburgh’s defensive front.
Even though holding is an emphasis for officials this season, Carroll is irritated at the number of flags against his linemen.
“I hope this hit hard enough this week. I hope the lessons are strong enough that we can make the impression on our guys,” he said.
STOCK UP — TE Will Dissly. Known more as a run blocker coming out of college a year ago, Dissly showed off his hands Sunday. Dissly caught a pair of TDs and finished with five catches for 50 yards, with another long pass completion called back due to a penalty. It’s been an impressive return for Dissly after missing most of his rookie season following a torn patellar tendon.
STOCK DOWN — RB Chris Carson. One of Carroll’s primary mantras is to take care of the football. Carson has two fumbles in two games, and while he was asked to get the final yards needed on a fourth-down run in the final minutes that clinched the victory, he is at risk of losing his spot as the primary ball carrier if the fumbles continue.
INJURED — Carroll said the expectation is for DE Ziggy Ansah to make his debut against New Orleans. Ansah missed the first two weeks while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but Carroll said Ansah should be ready to go. He’s also hopeful DT Poona Ford will be able to return from a calf strain that kept him out of the win over Pittsburgh. Carroll was less optimistic about FS Tedric Thompson (hamstring) and CB Neiko Thorpe (hamstring) saying it’d be a challenge for both of them to be ready in time.
KEY NUMBER — 15-0. The Seahawks have not lost a September home game in Carroll’s 10 seasons in charge.
NEXT STEPS — Seattle returns home to host the Saints on Sunday. The Seahawks are 3-0 against the Saints in Seattle during Carroll’s tenure, two of the wins coming in the postseason. Carroll said he hasn’t looked closely enough at how New Orleans might be different with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, but said Brees’ absence will be significant.
“Everything about his command of playing the position is as good as it can get. He’s a phenomenal player,” Carroll said.