The winless Pittsburgh Steelers came into Raymond James Stadium hoping to turn their season around. On the other side, the Buccaneers were hoping to continue their hot start. What looked like an easy win for the Steelers early on, actually turned into an exciting finish.
Pittsburgh went into halftime with 30-10 lead on Monday night and despite not scoring in the entire second half came out with a 30-27 win. Overall the Buccaneers showed that they should be taken very seriously. There’s still a lot to improve upon, but the pieces are finally here in Tampa to make a playoff run. Let’s focus on the Monday night game first and break down what went well, what went wrong, and the things that are just plain ugly
After a loss, it’s easy to start off with where it went wrong. For the Bucs, it’s very easy to see how they lost to the Steelers. The secondary is still the biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball in Tampa. After a slow start, Ben Roethlisberger turned in a really good performance. He completed 30 of his 38 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns. Everyone in the secondary had their issues. Veterans Brent Grimes and Chris Conte both gave up big touchdowns to Antonio Brown (28 yards) and Vance McDonald (75 yards) respectively. Despite a Justin Evans interception, the secondary as a whole is a still a work in progress.
On the offensive side of the ball, the bad Ryan Fitzpatrick was in full force in the first half. It looked like the Bucs were going to be in for a battle after the first quarter with a 7-6 lead but the wheels completely fell off in the second quarter.
Starting with a Chris Godwin fumble, the Bucs turned the ball over on four-straight possessions. Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Interceptions are a part of the game but Fitzpatrick’s were particularly egregious. All of them involved not being able to handle the pressure the Steelers were bringing and essentially making throws right to defenders. Fitz turned it around in the second half but his early struggles put the Bucs in a major hole.
Never have I seen more resilience from a Bucs team than what they showed last night. In the past, if the Bucs were down 20 points, they’d just curl up and accept it without a fight. Last night, fans saw a new Buccaneers team in the second half.
"The great thing to me coming out of this game is the belief in the huddle in the second half and guys not wavering and not blinking."
Fitzpatrick showed off the same level of play he did in the first two games. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns while the Bucs controlled the clock and the ball. The team’s first three drives spanned 25 plays, 220 yards, took 15:50 off the clock and resulted in 17 points.
Normally the weak link, the offensive line, did a much better job in the second half. The Steelers dialed up pressure all night and found success in the first half. However Fitz worked from a cleaner pocket and was able to throw the deep ball that worked so well.
The defensive line was the lone bright spot on the defensive side. As a unit, they picked up three sacks with Jason Pierre-Paul getting two of them. They were also able to collapse the pocket and force Roethlisberger to scramble. Unfortunately, his ability to move around is one of his strengths and he made a ton of completions outside the pocket. The defense did a good job forcing pressure but need to be able to bring the quarterback down more consistently.
Rule changes are a part of the NFL. During the offseason, the head office’s biggest rule change was an effort to protect the quarterback. The change, known as the “Aaron Rodgers Rule”, states that a defensive player cannot tackle a quarterback and land on them with their full body weight. There has been a ton of controversy early in the year and it reared its ugly head on Monday Night.
Both the Bucs and the Steelers were called for two roughing the passer penalties. The four penalties were the most in a single game since 2001. In his post-game press conference Roethlisberger made his thoughts known.
“I don’t want to criticize the officiating, especially when you’re talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out. But I was surprised at the first one, The second one I thought was legit. He hit me in the helmet. It was kind of like hearing that loud ring when your helmet gets hit.”
Overall, the Steelers had 13 penalties for 155 yards and the Bucs had 9 for 80 yards. The penalty calls played a big part in the outcome of the game and no fan wants to see that.
Up Next: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
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