RENTON -- Pete Carroll was understandably happy with his team's 28-26 win over the Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh. However, the Seahawks head coach also pointed to a few areas of concern for the team to correct moving into their Week 3 matchup with a wounded New Orleans Saints team.
The two turnovers surrendered via fumbles and shaky play from the offensive line were among the areas that bothered Carroll about Sunday's game.
Carroll believes winning the turnover battle is among the most important factors for winning football teams and wasn't pleased that the team has put the ball on the ground three times in two games.
"I’m really disappointed that we’ve given the ball up twice, really three times, but two of them we got the ball knocked out and we’ve got to do better than that," Carroll said.
Running back Chris Carson has been the player responsible for the lost fumbles over the first two games of the season. Carson had the ball ripped free after catching a screen pass last week against the Cincinnati Bengals and had T.J. Watt punch the ball loose on a first quarter carry in Pittsburgh on Sunday. He was also set to get a handoff in the fourth quarter that was immediately blown up with the loose ball being recovered by Devin Bush to set up a Steelers' touchdown.
Carroll gave Carson the benefit of the doubt on the last fumble as the handoff never got completed due to the immediate entry into the backfield from the Pittsburgh defense.
"We screwed up the one, made a mistake and we got hit in the backfield before we even got the exchange completed. That’s a little different but for as much as we emphasize it and how important it is to us and how much pride we take in this, we have to be better than this," Carroll said.
The offensive line was also problematic in spots. Russell Wilson was sacked four times in the first half with two of those being the fault of the offensive line. Additionally, the group was called for seven penalties on Sunday with wide receiver Jaron Brown also picking up a pair of blocking fouls as well.
"I hope this hit hard enough this week," Carroll said. "I hope the lessons are strong enough that we can make the impression on our guys. This isn’t something that we’ve missed, we’re just not accomplishing the objective of cleaning it up and we got to get it done. Look at us in third-and-10 or less, we’re a good third down team, but everything beyond that, we stink, and that’s going to to continue to be difficult and those happen because of sacks or because of penalties and we’re getting the third-and-15’s and stuff. So we’ve got to clean that up.”
The penalties consisted of two illegal blocks in the back from Brown, a false start from Germain Ifedi, and six holding penalties called against Ifedi, D.J. Fluker, Mike Iupati and Ethan Pocic.
"Our hands have got to get cleaner," Carroll said. "We just got to do a better job. The officials, there’s a couple things that are really easy for officials to see and they can see when you pull on a jersey and they can see that. When that happens, it’s a penalties in all phases of our game now. When your arms extend in blocks, it’s just a red flag and here it comes, you know. If they can see that you don’t get it removed immediately then you get called. That’s just being sloppy with our hands and we have to do better. We’re not there yet. We’re not on it yet. Our conscience isn’t right about it.
One aspect Carroll was really pleased with was the performance of the offense once the line issues cleaned up and Russell Wilson started to get the ball out quick against the Steelers' defense.
"The game plan turned out. It was what we had planned to do in the game. It just didn’t come together in the first half," Carroll said. "Schotty zeroed in on some stuff at half time with the guys and I thought Mike (Solari) did a nice job with the guys up front, settling them down and what really changed was Russ was just getting rid of the football so fast. It was really hard for the rush to develop and that complemented what else we were doing with the running game and we had a really consistent finish. We went three drives and scored. We gave them the football on the first play of the fourth drive and then finished the game to end it. So we had a tremendous second half. It was the combination of the timing, getting the ball out and the protection being impeccable in the second half. It gave us a great flow.
"I thought the whole mechanism really got sharp as the game wore on. And we missed a couple (blitz reads) and that’s when we got sacked a couple times. We missed the read, we missed the call and it wasn’t just getting whipped on a block, it was schematically we could have done better. The coordination in the second half was just on it and the guys did a great job. They had seen it once kind of and we came back out after halftime and everybody felt pretty comfortable making the adjustments. The ball, Russ was just on the mark and he was quick with the football and just didn’t let the pressure get even close to him.”
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is on track to make his debut with the team this Sunday against the Saints. The team has held Ansah out of the first two games in order to allow him to properly get all the way back from shoulder surgery this offseason.
"The expectation is that he’s going to play this week," Carroll said. "It’s just taken us this long to get through. We wanted to make sure that everything was right and he was right and mentality was right. He had enough reps. He has three good weeks of work now behind him and he’s in really good shape. He’s worked really hard. He’s in terrific condition. He’s going to be able to play, if he gets through the week and everything goes well, and he’ll play a considerable amount because he’s practiced hard enough to do that."
Ansah returned to practice with the two the week of the final preseason game against Oakland. He had been taking part in walkthrough sessions throughout August but had been held out of full team practices until the end of the month. He's had three weeks of practices now with a fourth week of work upcoming that should assure he's back to playing shape.
"That’s really going to be fun to see him out there," Carroll said. "You’ll see how we use him and where he’s going to fit in and all that at game time but I’m really excited about this. This is a guy that was really important to us in the offseason to get him so that he could help us with the losses of the guys that were going other places and so that’s finally coming together.”
Free safety Tedric Thompson and special teams captain Neiko Thorpe are both unlikely to play this week after missing Sunday's game with hamstring strains. Lano Hill started in Thompson's place at strong safety with Bradley McDougald moving to free safety against the Steelers.
"He’s going to do some stuff. It’s going to be a challenge for him to get back this week though. We’re not sure he can make it," Carroll said of Thompson.
Hill did allow a 45-yard catch when JuJu Smith-Schuster got behind the defense on a flea-flicker, but Carroll said they were pleased with his performance.
"He did alright," Carroll said. "He had the one bad play and other than that I thought he did a pretty good job."
Right guard D.J. Fluker injured his ankle in a pile when C.J. Prosise and a collection of bodies landed on his left leg late in the second quarter on Sunday. Fluker returned to the game and played briefly with Ethan Pocic taking the snaps Fluker was unable to manage. Carroll said they'll have to see how he recovers this week.
"We’ve got to wait and see. I don’t know," he said. "His attitude about it is that he’s going to play and all that but we have to wait and see Wednesday, Thursday and see what happens. I can’t you tell you anymore than that."
Photo Credit: PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 15: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks scrambles out of the pocket against T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on September 15, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)