Steelers keep playoff hopes alive with win over Seahawks
SEATTLE (AP) — The punishing runs from Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren and a handful of clutch throws from Mason Rudolph have lifted the Pittsburgh Steelers into the final week of the regular season with their playoff hopes still alive.
Harris rushed for a season-high 122 yards and bullied his way into the end zone for a pair of touchdowns, and the Steelers took their playoff hopes into Week 18 with a 30-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Using a physical running attack that faced little resistance from Seattle, the Steelers (9-7) pushed their way into the final week of the regular season with a chance at the postseason after two straight wins and ensured that Mike Tomlin’s team would yet again avoid a losing record.
“We got to win out. This is kind of playoffs for us, so us executing right now is kind of the biggest thing,” Harris said.
Harris had not hit the century mark rushing this season, his closest coming when he ran for 99 yards against Cincinnati. But he combined with Warren for a running punch that Seattle struggled to stop.
Harris averaged 4.5 yards per carry and reached the 100-yard mark for the first time since Week 17 of last season against Baltimore. Warren added another 75 yards rushing and scored on a 18-yard run in the first quarter.
“I thought he was determined, as was Jaylen,” Tomlin said of Harris. “I thought we got appropriate efforts from all parties involved and not to minimize it, it was just a critical time, and so if you're a competitor you're going to be at your best.”
Harris scored on a 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter breaking several tackles on his way to the goal line before a final lunge to break the plane. In the third quarter, Harris scored on a 4-yard run with a big assist from his linemen pushing the pile into the end zone to give the Steelers a 24-17 lead.
Pittsburgh thrived against Seattle’s run defense that has been awful for more than half the season and finished with 202 yards rushing and a season-high 468 total yards. Pittsburgh was the sixth straight opponent to rush for at least 135 yards against the Seahawks.
“I was really disappointed missing this opportunity, right here at home,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Everybody was ready. This was a great one and we missed it. We weren't right on defense in the run game again. It’s been repetitive. You can see it.”
Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph made his second straight start and finished 18 of 24 for 274 yards and hit the big throws when needed. None was more important than a 34-yard completion to George Pickens on third-and-6 early in the fourth quarter. Pickens made a terrific diving finger-tip catch and led to Chris Boswell’s 26-yard field goal that gave the Steelers a 27-20 lead with 7:07 left.
Rudolph also hit Pickens for 24 yards with two minutes left and Seattle desperately needing a stop. Pickens had seven catches for 131 yards.
“That's simple football right there. When the run game opens up like that and keep pounding it, and then toward the end of the game we catch them all in the box and I hit them on the slant,” Pickens said.
Seattle (8-8) had its two-game win streak snapped and while the Seahawks weren’t eliminated from the postseason, they will need a victory and a lot of help in Week 18.
“It was frustrating to be in the locker room. Of course everybody has a one off here or there and you see the result that happens," Seattle safety Julian Love said.
Geno Smith threw for 290 yards and a 12-yard TD to Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first half. Kenneth Walker III added 53 yards rushing and a 13-yard TD in the first half, but the Seahawks settled for three field goals in the second half and Smith committed one big turnover.
Nick Herbig forced and recovered a fumble, sacking Smith with seven minutes left, giving the Steelers possession at the Seattle 16 and Boswell’s 21-yard field goal with 4:31 left pushed the Pittsburgh lead to 30-20.
"We wanted to control our own destiny. Obviously, we can’t do that anymore. But there’s no time for us to kind of feel sorry for ourselves,” Smith said.
Seattle took two major hits to its offensive line. Starting right tackle Abe Lucas played the entire first half, but went to the locker room early before the second quarter ended and was ruled out with a knee injury when the second half started. Carroll said Lucas “wrenched” his knee and didn't necessarily reinjure himself as much as didn't have the strength in the knee to continue.
Three plays into the third quarter, center Evan Brown had to be helped off the field and was ruled out with a concussion.
Tomlin said pass rusher T.J. Watt came off late in the fourth quarter but thinks he'll be OK.
Steelers: Pittsburgh will be at Baltimore in Week 18.
Seahawks: Seattle closes out the regular season at Arizona next week.
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