This is an unedited version of the notebook I wrote that will appear in tomorrow's News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
The News Tribune
PITTSBURGH – Normally, locals say, the leaves on the trees along the Monongahela River at this time of year are changing to beautiful pastels and a chill in the air tends to make Pittsburgh Steelers fans bundle up warmly before coming to Heinz Field to worship their Sunday heroes.
But this is an unusual autumn in Western Pennsylvania, the leaves still green and the women in skirts because the heat wave passing through has extended the summer.
While 64,478 basked in the glory, the Seattle Seahawks, having practiced in 50-some degree weather under overcast skies all week, baked in the sun and sweated in the humidity, uncommon fatigue adding to an already long day.
They did what they could to stave off the elements, fans blowing mist at full blast and security personnel manually holding up screens over the benches to shield the sun.
It did little good. Players were sucking on masks to procure oxygen from tanks, and both Craig Terrill and Leroy Hill had to go to the locker room during the game to deal with the effects of dehydration.
Coach Mike Holmgren adjusted his rotations accordingly, giving rookies Baraka Atkins and Brandon Mebane, backup linebacker Niko Koutouvides and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms reps they otherwise would not get.
The Seahawks being rugged football players, they were not willing to readily admit that they felt weary from the heat.
But they did concede that the combination of the weather, and the amount of time the defense was required to stay on the field – Pittsburgh held the ball for 21 minutes more than Seattle – exacted a toll.
"It was warm," Mike Holmgren said, wiping sweat from his face. "We may have worn down a little bit in the end, I guess. They were on the field a long time."
Matt Hasselbeck has not been shy about expressing his opinion regarding the need to protect quarterbacks from having players roll into their legs, particularly after missing four games last season when Minnesota linebacker E.J. Henderson hit him in the knee.
And so Hasselbeck was happy to say something to safety Anthony Smith, who was called for unnecessary roughness when he rolled into Hasselbeck's knees at the end of the second quarter. It was that penalty that moved the Seahawks to Pittsburgh's 14-yard line.
"I said, 'You almost just ended my season,'" Hasselbeck said. "I wasn't angry necessarily. I just dodged a bullet there."
Hasselbeck said he does not recall if Smith responded to him.
With Hasselbeck unable to get anything going, coach Mike Holmgren benched him midway through the fourth quarter in favor or Seneca Wallace.
Hasselbeck said he would have liked to stay in the game, but he understood Holmgren's reasoning.
"It's hard," Hasselbeck said. "As a player, you never want to come out. It is not my call. It is coach's call. It was probably a fitting ending to a very disappointing day."
The Steelers were 8-of-15 on third down conversions, including 3-of-3 on the 17-play drive in the third quarter. The Seahawks converted just 4-of-13.
"When you can convert those, it is a big uplift for the offense and kind of a downer for the defense," Mike Holmgren said. "The emotions of a third down conversion are tough to overcome at times. And they didn't have one. They had three (on that drive). Give them credit for doing a nice job. We didn't, and that was the game."
Shaun Alexander's streak of 67 consecutive games with a run of at least 10 yards was snapped. … Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished the game by completing 13 consecutive passes. The franchise record is 15. After a bye week, he will attempt to break the record against Denver. … Kevin Hobbs, who was activated from the practice squad this week after an injury to Josh Wilson, forced one fumble. … Ben Obomanu returned three kickoffs for a total of 66 yards. Obomanu also had a dropped pass.