RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks will find themselves short-handed in Pittsburgh on Sunday, and not just because 6-foot-4 receiver Sidney Rice will miss his second consecutive game because of a shoulder injury.
Seattle already ruled out three primary special-teams players as fullback Michael Robinson and cornerback Byron Maxwell are out with ankle injuries while defensive end Dexter Davis has a hip injury that will keep him out Sunday and perhaps much longer.
Throw in linebacker Malcolm Smith, who is doubtful because of a hamstring injury, and the Seahawks are going to be patching up the special teams that were such a problem in San Francisco, allowing two kicks returned for touchdowns in the span of 59 seconds.
“They need to come through; they need to step up,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We definitely had a falter last week late and we can’t let that happen.”
Robert Gallery will start at left guard, making his Seahawks debut.
He missed the season opener with a sprained knee, but practiced throughout this week and will bring a veteran presence to a line that last week was the most inexperienced group of starting offensive linemen in any NFL game since 1995.
Gallery started 91 games in his seven seasons in Oakland, and he joins a lineup where the other four starters now have 31 cumulative regular-season starts between them. Gallery is listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report, which translates to a 50-50 chance he will be available, but all indications are he will play.
Carroll said Gallery’s presence already has steadied the line, which allowed five sacks last week in San Francisco, tied for most of any NFL team in Week 1.
“He’s really helped us,” Carroll said of Gallery’s presence. “Hopefully, we should be sharper and cleaner, and that’s what we’re counting on.”
With Gallery in the lineup, rookie James Carpenter will move and start at right tackle, though Carroll did not rule out the possibility that Breno Giacomini – the starter last week – could get some playing time at that spot.
“We’ll see how things go,” Carroll said.
Rice has been ruled out, though his participation in practice was encouraging this week after missing the previous three weeks because of the shoulder injury.
Rice was limited in practice each day, but he elevated the amount of drills he took part in. Carroll said last week that Rice’s progress in practice this week would provide a strong indication of how he would recover from the shoulder injury.
Carroll said Rice’s week of practice was encouraging, and the former Pro Bowl receiver could be ready for Seattle’s home opener against Arizona on Sept. 25.
“He had a lot of work,” Carroll said. “Gave us the thought that he has a pretty solid chance next week.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers are favored by 14 points, making the Seahawks the largest underdog they’ve been going back to 1992 when they finished 2-14. Opponents were favored by 13 or more points in three of Seattle’s eight road games that season, including spreads of 14.5 and 15 points. Going back to 1985, Seattle is 1-21 when it is a double-digit underdog on the road, the only straight-up victory coming in 1989 at Cincinnati.