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Steelers face Wilson-less Seahawks on Sunday night

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger is encouraged. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, however, is not convinced his team’s early offensive struggles are firmly in the rearview mirror.

Yes, there were signs of progress last week against Denver. Najee Harris ran with what is becoming his trademark fury. The offensive line created time for its 39-year-old quarterback to look downfield as the Steelers ended a three-game losing streak.

Still, it was just four quarters of competence. Roethlisberger is well aware more needs to be done if Pittsburgh (2-3) wants to get back into the AFC North race starting on Sunday night against injury-riddled Seattle (2-3).

“Listen, by no means are we going to sit here and say, ‘Oh, we’re fixed. We’re this great offense.’ We’re not there yet,” Roethlisberger said.

Neither are the Seahawks.

Like the Steelers, Seattle finds itself in last place in a highly competitive division. Unlike the Steelers, the Seahawks will have to fix things without their best player.

Quarterback Russell Wilson is out several weeks while recovering from surgery on the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. Geno Smith will make his first start in nearly four years while the Seahawks will play their first game without Wilson under center since 2011.

“We understand there’s a lot of people who are counting us out, a lot of people that believe we can’t do it,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We’ve proved people wrong in the past before, and I don’t see why the future doesn’t turn out the exact same way.”

Having the NFL’s worst defense take a significant step forward would help. The “Legion of Boom” days are long gone, replaced by a group that’s more “fall down, go boom.” Seattle has allowed at least 450 yards in each of its past four games, tying an NFL record.

“If I had to pinpoint one thing, it’s that early on we got in our way a lot,” Wagner said. “Whether it’s penalties, whether it’s mistakes and miscommunications, and so that’s probably the biggest thing. If we can fix those things, we have the talent and we have the people to be a great defense.”

At the moment, adequate would be an improvement.

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