RENTON – Early this week, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll speculated that the challenge of facing a grumpy Pittsburgh Steelers team in front of its home fans was “as hard as it gets.”
Actually, it’s gotten a little harder because receiver Sidney Rice has been ruled out for the game with an injured shoulder, and at least three (possibly four) key players on special teams will be out with injuries.
“Sidney won’t make it in this one,” Carroll said of Rice, the team’s pricey free agent who has yet to see action. Rice missed the opener at San Francisco, and the Hawks struggled offensively in a 33-17 defeat.
“He had a lot of work (this week),” Carroll said of Rice. “And (that) gave us the thought that he has a pretty solid chance next week.” The Seahawks face Arizona a week from Sunday in their home opener.
Ankle injuries to fullback Mike Robinson and cornerback Byron Maxwell against San Francisco contributed to the Seahawks’ coverage problems as 49ers returner Ted Ginn Jr. brought back a kickoff and a punt for fourth-quarter touchdowns.
In addition, injuries to backup defenders and special-teams performers Dexter Davis (listed as out Friday, hip) and Malcolm Smith (doubtful, hamstring) complicate the problems faced by a unit already short on manpower.
However, Robert Gallery is expected to return to the starting lineup at left guard after having missed the opener with a knee sprain. His return allows rookie James Carpenter to move back to his spot at starting right tackle. Carpenter opened his NFL career last week at Gallery’s guard spot, and Breno Giacomini started at right tackle.
Veteran middle linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) is listed as the probable starter this week after being inactive and watching rookie K.J. Wright start against San Francisco.
In the absence of Rice, Carroll said rookie receiver Kris Durham likely will be active.
Other than the injury-mandated personnel shifts, Carroll made some schedule changes as the Hawks prepared for the first of three games this season in the Eastern time zone. Meetings, lifting and practices started earlier all week in an attempt to reset the team’s biological clocks.
“We’ve had a very solid week in preparations,” Carroll said. “We’ve asked the guys to make a commitment to the time frames we’re dealing with, so we can adjust a little bit, and everybody did it to a tee.”
Carroll had the Hawks fly out Friday afternoon, too, to give them a day to acclimate to the time change in hopes of overcoming the team’s historical problems since 2007 in games that start at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. on the East Coast).
Other changes this week were aimed at bolstering the offensive line, which allowed quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to be sacked five times by the 49ers. Carroll said that line coach Tom Cable suspected they were more concerned with assignments than being physical and finishing their blocks.
“(Cable) did a couple things, and the guys understood it and it absolutely showed up on the practice field this week,” Carroll said. “I’m really anxious to see that generate a little something different for us.”
The Seahawks are heavy underdogs to a Steelers team that is returning home after suffering a 35-7 thrashing to rival Baltimore in the season opener. Carroll said he never paid attention to betting lines. He doesn’t need Las Vegas to tell him anything about the problems of playing Pittsburgh.
“It’s a big matchup for us,” he said. “It’s going to be as difficult as it can get.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com