2018 South Side Questions: How Will Defense Rebound In Time For Bucs?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are in a critical portion of the offseason in which the preseason takes center stage, where some of the biggest and most important questions get answered, especially in terms of personnel.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How does the defense rebound in time to face another hot quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick?

There have been three quarterback in NFL history to throw at least four touchdown passes in each of the first two games of the season. The first was Drew Bledsoe in 1997. The other two just came yesterday, with Patrick Mahomes lighting up the Steelers’ defense for six touchdown passes, while Ryan Fitzpatrick also threw four touchdowns in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ unseating of the defending Super Bowl champions.

And the Steelers get to travel down south to face the red-hot Fitzpatrick for a primetime game next week. It was thought to be a boon that the team would miss out on facing Jameis Winston while he serves a four-game suspension, but the long-time veteran backup and occasional starter Fitzpatrick has the Buccaneers’ offense clicking.

He completed 27 of 33 passes yesterday for 402 yards, throwing four touchdowns to one interception. That was after completing 21 of 28 attempts in the season opener for 417 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. So through two games, he has completed 48 of 61 pass attempts (nearly 79 percent) for 819 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception. He is averaging 13.4 yards per pass attempt.

The Steelers got lucky facing Tyrod Taylor in the season opener, who frequently played it conservatively and looked out of sync when throwing 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage beyond a couple of passes late in the game.

Mahomes tore the secondary apart yesterday, and Fitzpatrick has the supporting cast to do the same with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and tight end O.J. Howard. How is the defense going to adjust in time to face the Buccaneers’ still-potent offense?

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