Geno Smith got the opportunity of a lifetime on Sunday, learning his first start as a Seattle Seahawk in prime time on Sunday Night Football. Even better, he got the chance in Pittsburgh against the Steelers — a quasi-homecoming game for the former Mountaineer, just about an hour drive from Morgantown.
Smith had a solid showing for Seattle — after a rough first half, he rallied the offense to come back from a two-touchdown deficit to eventually send it into overtime. That’s when the Steelers’ pressure seemed to get to him, as he gave up a game-deciding fumble in Steeler field goal territory, ultimately setting Chris Boswell up for a game-winning kick.
The quarterback finished 23-of-32 for 209 yards and a touchdown, with that late fumble marking his sole turnover of the night. Head coach Pete Carroll was fairly pleased with that performance — even if it did result in a loss.
“I thought he was solid,” Carroll said. “I thought he managed the game well, he gave us a chance to win the football game, unfortunately, he gets the ball knocked out on that last play.”
Like Carroll, Smith had a positive attitude after the loss — but rather than focusing on his relative success in the start, he expressed disappointment in his team’s second straight tight loss and the missed chances to turn those games into wins.
A week before his first start, Smith made his first appearance of the season in Los Angeles against the Rams as he filled in for an injured Russell Wilson. He tossed for 101 yards and a touchdown, but gave up an interception on a potential go-ahead drive as Seattle trailed by just six points.
“That last drive [against Pittsburgh], that’s all I was thinking, just take us down there and score, somehow and some way,” he said. “Man, we can’t keep coming up short. I can’t keep coming up short. I put that on myself, back-to-back weeks, our defense gives us a chance to score, they give me the ball, and we don’t get it done, so that’s solely on me, and I vow to be better.”
Still, Smith relished the opportunity of his first NFL start since 2017. While he remained focus on getting the win, he still made sure to smell the roses.
“I’m always focused on the task at hand, and I wasn’t thinking about myself,” he said. “But I will say, I was super calm in the moment, I just felt like the whole time I was just staying in the moment, and it was fun. It was awesome, it really was, to be out there with the guys, competing, giving ourselves a chance to win, obviously we didn’t get it done, but it was fun to be out there.”
Carroll and his staff recognized how much that chance meant to his new starter.
“It kills him, because Geno knew, these are extraordinary opportunities for him, and he wants to come through, he wants to show that he can do it and play, and all that, and it kills him that he wasn’t able to finish it,” Carroll said. “But I thought he played tough as hell, and I thought he was clear, calm and poised, exactly like we’d hope he would be, and this game was not too big for him at all. He was right there.”
Smith is projected to be the Seahawks’ starter for the foreseeable future while Wilson sits on the injured reserve after surgery on his finger. He is eligible to return on Nov. 14, but his exact timetable is still to be announced. Carroll did confirm that the team reached out to free agent Cam Newton after Wilson’s injury, but it appears Seattle will stick with Smith.
They next play at home on Oct. 25 for a Monday Night Football clash with the New Orleans Saints.