The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to get into the win column for the first time in three tries as they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight. They will be facing one of the hottest offenses in the league, and doing so without Artie Burns in the starting lineup, as, according to reports, the team is benching him in favor of Coty Sensabaugh.
David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, and Morgan Burnett are all officially inactive, in addition to Mason Rudolph, Marcus Allen, L.T. Walton, and Justin Hunter.
The Steelers received the opening kickoff, Ryan Switzer taking it out of the end zone and returning it to about the 28, but a hold on Jordan Dangerfield wiped it out. The Steelers opened in the 01 personnel with Switzer in the backfield, taking a quick pass for a short gain from the 10. James Conner was lucky to lose only one yard on second down.
Following a punt, the defense was able to respond with a three-and-out, Chris Godwin on third and long losing the ball following a hard hit by Joe Haden. A quick punt and the Steelers have the ball back again.
Conner was stopped for a gain of one on first down. Ben Roethlisberger hit Conner on second down for a 10-yard gain for the first first down of the game. Vance McDonald added 14 coming over on a shallow crosser, complete with a stiff arm. On the following play, however, he forced a ball under pressure that was intercepted along the left sideline.
Taking over the midfield, Ryan Fitzpatrick quickly found Mike Evans for a first down into Steelers territory. Then another first down to O.J. Howard against Bud Dupre down to the 22. Payton Barber rushed for 18 yards right up the middle to set up a first and goal. Fitzpatrick to Cameron Brate in the back of the end zone for the easy score.
Following a touchback, Roethlisberger bobbled the snap and ran into Conner, who was tackled for a loss of four. A bubble screen to Brown merely got those yards back. Now third and 10, Roethlisberger found McDonald open, who proceeded to stiff-arm a defender for the second time in as many catches, this time taking it all the way for a long 75-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, Chris Boswell’s yips continued, as he missed the ensuing point after.
The Steelers wasted a good tackle on the ensuing kickoff when Jon Bostic hit Fitzpatrick on the head following a scramble. Bostic then made the ensuing tackle on a short screen for six yards to the 40. Howard just got free of T.J. Watt to pick up the first down. Following another deep completion, the Bucs were inside the Steelers’ 30. Bostic did a great job of breaking up a pass down the seam for Howard on second and eight. Now third down, the defense got home for the sack, Anthony Chickillo in for Watt. That knocked Tampa Bay out of field goal range. The punt was downed inside the 10.
After a short gain and a false start, it was second and 10, Roethlisberger dropping back to launch a deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught it for a 44-yard gain. Roethlisberger was drilled late by Gerald McCoy, adding a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty to the end of the play. Down to the Bucs’ 34, Stevan Ridley carried up the middle for six yards, holding on to the ball as the defense tried to rip it out. A one-cut run for three yards ended the first quarter. Alejandro Villanueva was flagged for holding on a would-be conversion. Now third and 11, Roethlisberger scrambled to the line and tossed the ball to McDonald for the conversion.
Following a deep ball that ran a linebacker into the rear wall out of the end zone, causing him to leave the game, a second-down running back screen lost three yards. Now third and 13, Roethlisberger went underneath to Conner for a gain of about six to set up Chris Boswell for possible redemption to take the lead on a 38-yard field goal try. He succeeded, making his first field goal of the season.
Jacquizz Rodgers was stopped for a loss in the backfield on first down from the 23 after the kickoff. Artie Burns forced a fumble on Godwin after he beat Mike Hilton on the catch and then broke his tackle, but Hilton recovered, setting the offense up with great field position.
Conner picked up six yards off the right end on first down inside the 30 following the takeaway. Brown took a bubble screen all the way home for his second touchdown of the year, beating the first man and racing into the end zone from 27 yards out. The Steelers seized a 16-7 lead.
It appeared the Steelers’ coverage unit did another great job on the kickoff, but Nat Berhe was flagged for a facemask making the tackle. That put the Bucs at the 30. Fitzpatrick found Evans wide open for a big gain against Sensabaugh, who slipped at the top of the route. Sean Davis was flagged for a late hit to add another 15 yards, Tampa now all the way to the Steelers’ 28.
Bud Dupree was held on a sweep around the left edge, backing the Bucs up to the 38. Fitzpatrick’s pass was off the mark on first down, at Howard’s feet. A quick release to Humphries under a blitz picked up six yards to the 32, at the cusp of field goal range. Now third and 14, Fitzaptrick completed to Godwin as he was hit by Dupree, caught down the seam over Sensabaugh to the 12.
Fitzpatrick grounded the ball after facing a blitz up the middle from Vince Williams. Bostic blitzed this time and batted the ball up in the air, Hilton in the right place at the right time to snag it out of the air for his second turnover of the game.
Following the turnover, Conner gained two yards, then Roethlisberger looked for Smith-Schuster down the right sideline. Jason Pierre-Paul swatted Roethlisberger in the head for a roughing the passer penalty. Two plays later, on third and six, Brown was taken down at the line of scrimmage on a crossing route.
Following the punt, and an offsides call, the Bucs took over at their own 30. Hilton batted down the ball down the field, but Stephon Tuitt was flagged for roughing the passer, victimized by the body weight clause. Fitzpatrick overthrew the ball on the following play, allowing Terrell Edmunds to pick off the ball. As he did in the preseason, he showed great burst with the ball in his hands on the return.
The Steelers started from the Bucs’ 35 following the return. Roethlisberger held on to the ball for far too long, however, and took a foolish sack for a loss of 10 yards. Now second and 20 back to the 45, Ridley got the ball on the draw to pick up eight yards to the 37. Now third and 11, Roethlisberger was sacked again, resulting in a three-and-out on a drive that started just outside the red zone, spoiling an opportune turnover. Jordan Berry’s punt was downed by Darrius Heyward-Bey at the two.
Following a run-stop on first down, Fitzpatrick forced a bad throw under pressure that was intercepted by Dupree and returned for a score, giving the Steelers a 23-7 lead.
Following a roughing the passer penalty on Davis, Evans got just behind Burns down the left sideline for a huge 51-yard gain at the five. Barber picked up two yards up the middle on first down on the first play on the other side of the two-minute warning. On second and goal, Fitzpatrick was put under pressure by Watt after beating his blocker, forcing him to throw the ball away. Now third and goal, it looked as though he had Godwin for the touchdown, but the receiver was unable to retain possession. Haden got just a piece of the ball, but it was still catchable. The Bucs settled for the field goal from 21 yards out to make it 23-10 with 1:15 to play.
Starting from the 25 following a touchback, the ensuing drive began with a quick six-yard pass over the middle to Brown, then an 18-yarder up the middle to Conner, the first timeout called with 43 seconds remaining.
Near midfield, a quick out to Brown under pressure went for nine yards in front of the sticks. A crosser to Smith-Schuster, getting out of bounds, picked up another chunk with 34 seconds remaining down to the 30. Under a heavy blitz, Roethlisberger stayed in the pocket and put the ball up for James Washington, coming down with the ball for another first down to the 17.
A short gain to Conner picked up just three, but he got out of bounds. With 24 seconds to play, Roethlisberger found Smith-Schuster, who caught the right sideline to pick up about 11 or 12, setting up first and goal from the two with 17 seconds left.
From an empty set, the pass to Smith-Schuster at the goalline was broken up by the defender after he bobbled it. Now second down, four wide, a slant to Brown was incomplete, but the defender was flagged for pass interference. He was holding Brown’s left arm. Now at the one, with a timeout in hand, it’s five wide again. Switzer checked out of the backfield to the left side, Roethlisberger zinging the ball to him for the touchdown at the left corner. That’s a 30-10 lead into the second half.