Countdown to kickoff

PITTSBURGH – Greetings for Heinz Field, which is located on a tip of The Steel City where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join the Ohio. Some of the Seahawks already are out on this beautiful mid-September morning preparing for today’s game against the Steelers.

No one is giving the Seahawks a chance in this one – which is not only the Steelers’ home opener, but a perceived get-better-quick matchup after they were spanked 35-7 by the Ravens in Baltimore last week.

Pete Carroll was asked about the lopsided “line” for today’s game on Friday, but the Seahawks coach pooh-poohed the notion that he might use that as motivation for his players.

“It means absolutely nothing,” Carroll said. “We never even ever think about talking about it. It’s not necessary.”

Same story when it comes to the storyline about the game being refereed by Bill Levy, who has admitted he made a couple of bad calls in the Seahawks’ loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL.

“It’s too far in the past to think that it’s going to be a factor,” Carroll said of that game that was played on Jan. 22, 2006, in Detroit. “I don’t know why it would be.”

Only two players remain on the Seahawks’ roster from that game – cornerback Marcus Trufant and linebacker Leroy Hill. Carroll? He was coaching at USC at the time.

“It feels like a long time ago, so that’s why I don’t even think it’s a factor now,” Trufant said. “I think we’ve got to go in there and we’ve got to be worried about us and make sure we do things right.”

Now that Carroll will agree with, and the most obvious place for the Seahawks to start is getting off to a better start – a quicker start; a don’t dig-yourselves-into-a-hole start. Last week, the offense generated 37 yards in the first half against the 49ers in San Francisco, and slow starts also plagued the Seahawks during the preseason.

“All there is is the mental preparation to be ready when we leave the locker room,” Carroll said. “So that everybody’s right and they’re feeling comfortable and we can play at the tempo we want to. Our tempo picked up in the third quarter (against the 49ers). We got stronger as the game went on.

“So we’re just trying to make the point that this whole preparation is to get us mentally right and hopefully the focus and the experiences will allow our guys to be clued in right from the get-go. That’s what we try to get done. But it isn’t about how you start, though. It doesn’t matter. It just makes it harder if you start poorly.”

Because as anyone who knows Carroll – or at least has been listening at all – is aware, it’s all about how you finish.

The Steelers, however, are capable of playing mind games with opponents, especially in Blitzburgh. They just don’t lose at home very often, and have not lost their home opener since 2002. They’ve won big – 34-15 over the Ravens in 2003; 34-7 over the Titans in 2005; 26-3 over the Bills in 2007; and 38-17 over the Texans in 2008. They’ve won close games, as well – 24-21 over the Raiders in 2004; 13-10 in overtime against the Titans in 2009; and 15-9 in overtime against the Falcons last year. They’ve won the in between games – 28-17 over the Dolphins in 2006.

Bottom line: They’ve won. That eight-game winning streak in their home openers is the second longest in the league.

To alter that trend, the Seahawks will have to play a lot better than they did against the 49ers, and start doing it a lot sooner.


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