The Seattle Seahawks hope to use Sunday's win against the San Francisco 49ers as a springboard for the final six games of the regular season.
Seattle posted a season-high 508 yards of total offense in a 29-13 victory over the 49ers. The biggest revelation from the game was the performance of the running game despite the absence of star running back Marshawn Lynch.
Thomas Rawls was the primary reason for that success. Rawls rushed for 209 yards in the game as Seattle posted 255 rushing yards in total against San Francisco.
"The mentality that we have to have in that room is that when he's not in there, we have to pick up the slack," running back Fred Jackson said. "Go out there and do the best that we can to make sure that this offense doesn't miss him in that area."
With Lynch expected to miss close to a month due to surgery on his abdomen, Rawls will be a key piece for Seattle's offense the rest of the way. If the Seahawks can make another late-season run, Rawls will be a big reason why.
"Pretty confident," Carroll said of their comfort level with Rawls. "He's done very, very well. He's been consistent and whenever he's been given a real good shot he's come through in a big way. We're excited for him to have another opportunity to go out and see our guys block for him and see what we can get done again."
The improvement from the offensive line in recent weeks has also been a key to the improved offensive performance.
Sunday's game against the 49ers was one of the best outings of the year for the beleaguered unit. Rawls had room to run and Russell Wilson had time to throw. Wilson's 24 completions on 29 attempts was the best mark of his career for completion percentage in a single game.
"It was cleaner," offensive line coach Tom Cable said. "There are some things that still could have been better.
"The receivers did really good. And the tight ends. You have to give that group some credit because we were consistent up front, which is a big plus, but where we were at on the perimeter at tight end and receiver made a huge difference. That's how you get those big numbers."
SERIES HISTORY: 17th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 8-8. Steelers have won last two games. Most historic meeting between these two teams was in Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh won 21-10 in a game marred by officiating blunders.
--Marshawn Lynch had surgery on Wednesday morning for an injury "related to" a sports hernia, according to head coach Pete Carroll.
Lynch will remain in Philadelphia for the next several days until he's able to return to Seattle.
"The doctor was very optimistic about a quick recovery," Carroll said. "That could mean within 3-4 weeks or something like that, there's a chance. Other than that everything went very well."
Lynch will remain on the roster with the hope he'll be able to get back in the timetable Carroll outlined. Carroll said there's still a chance he may not make it back this season, but they don't expect that to be the case.
"The doctor projected that he could get back pretty quickly," Carroll said. "They fixed everything that was wrong and the doctor was very optimistic about his return."
Lynch has been inactive three times this season for Seattle due to injuries. He had never been inactive for a game before this season, though he did not play against Cleveland in 2011 after his back seized up prior to kickoff.
He's appeared on the injury report with hamstring, calf and abdominal injuries. His back can flare up at any time and Carroll noted a neck issue at one point earlier this season as well.
Lynch has 417 yards and three touchdowns in seven games this season.
--If he could do it over again, Pete Carroll says he wishes they would have made a change sooner at center.
The Seahawks made the decision to put Patrick Lewis in the starting lineup for their Week 6 game against the Carolina Panthers after going with Drew Nowak for the first five weeks of the year. Lewis then got hurt and missed the next two games before returning to the starting role in Week 10.
"Now that I see how he's doing," Carroll said of if he wishes they'd gone to Lewis sooner. "We really set our sights on trying to get Drew going. We thought there was going to be a quick upsurge in his play and it was hard for him in making the transition and all that. As I look back now, I would have liked to have given Patrick a chance earlier so we could compare it. But we still would have wanted to see how Drew would develop and his learning curve is just going to take a little bit longer. It just didn't happen as fast as we needed it to."
Seattle's offense put up 508 yards against the 49ers last week and posted their best third down conversion rate of the season. The offensive line helped Thomas Rawls rush for 209 yards on 30 carries, which is the second-most by a Seahawks running back in franchise history behind only Shaun Alexander's 266 yards in 2001.
The line has slowly improved in recent weeks. They've allowed just four sacks in the last three games after allowing 31 over the first seven games of the season.
"I think Patrick Lewis has really helped us," Carroll said. "He's done a nice job for us. ... Patrick started playing and we've done very well since he's been in there and it's been a nice little uptick so hopefully we can keep growing."
Lewis injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of last week's game against the 49ers, but Carroll said he'll be fine to play against the Steelers on Sunday. Lewis was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 - Points scored by Seattle during the last two regular season games against the Steelers. The Seahawks were shut out 21-0 in Oct. 2007 and 24-0 in Sept. 2011. Both games were in Pittsburgh. Seattle's last points against Pittsburgh came in the third quarter of Super Bowl XL on a 16-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's right on top. He's so productive. He's got 80 catches right now. He's way out there numbers wise and all. By their commitment to him and his consistency, they've made him a great player now. He's as big a threat as there is in the league. I don't know if he's the best, but he's right there." -- head coach Pete Carroll on Steelers WR Antonio Brown.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Doug Baldwin (ankle) took part in the team's walkthrough Wednesday but will be rested in practice through the week. "He's a little bit sore but he's not going to miss this game," Carroll said.
--RG J.R. Sweezy (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday after suffering a stinger in last week's game against the 49ers. It's not thought to be serious as Sweezy returned to the game after missing just one play.
--WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) will be a game-time decision at best. He suffered a hamstring strain two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals and isn't expected to practice for most of the week.
--LB Bruce Irvin (knee) will also be a game-time decision at best. He suffered a sprained right MCL against the Cardinals and did not play Sunday against the 49ers.
--RT Garry Gilliam (ankle) did not practice. However, he finished the game against San Francisco last week.
--CB Jeremy Lane (knee/arm) will be added to the active roster this week and Carroll said he's expected to play if he makes it through the week of practice without any setbacks. Lane remains on the PUP list after suffering a torn ACL and broken arm in the Super Bowl.
--RB Bryce Brown was re-signed on Tuesday to provide depth at running back in the absence of Marshawn Lynch.
--WR B.J. Daniels was promoted from the practice squad to provide depth at receiver. The team finished Sunday's game against the 49ers with just three healthy receivers after Doug Baldwin left with an ankle injury.
--DT A.J. Francis was released by Seattle on Tuesday to clear a roster spot after being claimed off waivers from Miami last week. He cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
--LB Nick Moody (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve after being injured Sunday against the 49ers.
--RB Thomas Rawls (knee) was limited on Wednesday.
--Seattle's pass rush needs to consistently get to Ben Roethlisberger. As strong as Seattle's pass coverage can be, Roethlisberger's ability to extend plays and find receivers downfield will be critical to stop the Steelers passing attack. The Seahawks can help slow Pittsburgh by keeping their offense off the field. Thomas Rawls will be a critical piece in the running game to keep drives alive and keep Seattle's offense on the field.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Seahawks CB Richard Sherman vs. Steelers WR Antonio Brown.
The Seahawks haven't said that Sherman will cover Brown exclusively this week, but it wouldn't be a surprise. Sherman has been used to cover a team's No.1 receiver more frequently this season. He's covered Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Dallas' Dez Bryant and San Francisco's Torrey Smith this year. Brown already has 79 receptions for 1,141 yards and five touchdowns this season.
--Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls vs. Steelers front seven.
Rawls posted 209 yards rushing and 255 yards from scrimmage in last week's 29-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers. However, the Steelers run defense ranks fifth in the league, allowing just 93 yards per game. Seattle's offense works more consistently when the run game is rolling and they can work big-play opportunities in through play-action.