Seattle Seahawks

Rashaad Penny uses 2019 in-game technology to create key TD in Seahawks win at Pittsburgh

A key to the Seahawks’ first win in Pittsburgh since Jon Kitna was their quarterback and Bill Clinton was our president?

Rashaad Penny watching videos in the locker room at halftime.

Wait...what?

The Seahawks’ much-maligned first-round draft choice from a year ago was part of the changes offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s made at the break Sunday inside the visitor’s locker room at Heinz Field.

It became the best 15-minute intermission Seattle has had since the last time they had the irresistible halftime dog races at CenturyLink Field.

Penny’s halftime study was the key reason why the Seahawks rallied to win in Pittsburgh for the first time in 20 years, 28-26 over the Steelers.

The running back used the mobile tablet devices teams now are allowed to have to review action on the sidelines—and in the locker room—during games.

He, play-caller Schottenheimer and the offensive staff studied the images on their Microsoft Surface tablets at halftime of Barron shooting the inside gap on the left side of Seattle’s offensive line on a stretch running play to the left. That was on Seattle’s second possession of the game. Barron and Steelers teammates Vince Williams and Terrell Edmunds—two inside linebackers and a strong safety—dropped Penny at the line of scrimmage for a short gain.

That aggressiveness by linebacker and safeties plus the Steelers’ four sacks of Russell Wilson were why the first half ended with the Seahawks down 10-7.

So at halftime, Penny and his coaches plotted—with the help of 2019 in-game technology—to use Pittsburgh’s aggressiveness against them.

“We went back and watched film,” Penny said, as he walked after the game from the locker room to the Seahawks’ team bus that was taking them to the airport for Sunday night’s flight home. “If I would have cut it back (then), it probably would have been the same result, or a good gain.”

So that’s what he and the coaches decided at halftime. Next time we run that play, Penny, expect Barron in your face after you get the hand-off and cut sharply away from him and the flow of the play, to the right.

Third and 2 at the Steelers 37, Seahawks clinging to a 14-13 lead after a Pittsburgh field goal. Wilson hands the ball to Penny. The flow of the play and the blocker go left. Sure enough, Barron reads one of the Seahawks’ pet running plays. He immediately shoots the gap. The linebacker is waiting for Penny like a high-school kid waits for a bus in the morning.

“Same exact thing. Same exact run,” Penny said. “So I said, ‘Forget. Let’s go for all the marbles here. Just make one guy miss.’”

He did.

Penny cut sharply to the right, showing the balance, agility and speed that made coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider trade then select major-college football’s rushing leader out of San Diego State in the first round of last year’s draft. Wilson comically was the only man in front of Penny. The quarterback was a lead blocker his running back didn’t really need on his 37-yard touchdown bolt. Seattle led 21-13, and the Steelers were in scramble mode the rest of the afternoon.

“I’ve got to give my guy Russ, my lead blocker, all the credit,” Penny said, smiling after his third career touchdown.

His last was Dec. 2, against San Francisco during his injury-derailed, frustrating rookie season.

“We pay attention to all the little things,” Penny said of his halftime tablet review. “We look back and say, ‘OK, what can we do different?’

“I saw that. And it’s just making plays from there.”

Penny made many Sunday. He finished with a game-high 62 yards on 10 carries. The Seahawks will take 6.2 yards per rush from him—from anyone—any time or place.

They will also take the 152 yards rushing the top running game in the NFL last season gained on Sunday against the aggressive Steelers.

Thanks to video review, the too-aggressive Steelers.

“It’s just a blessing to get into the end zone,” Penny said, “and enjoy a great win with great teammates.

“It was fun.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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