Things sure did get chaotic Monday night between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A couple of plays here and there could have swung the game in the other direction for the Buccaneers, but fortunately for the Steelers those swing plays didn’t happen at the right time, allowing Pittsburgh to hang on for dear life in a 30-27 win.
Like I do every week, I’ll take a look at the 5 biggest plays that helped change the outcome of the game from my perspective. Let’s dive in.
Play 5 — 4th & 11 at PIT 37 (8:57 – 4th) J.Berry punts 46 yards to TB 17, Center-K.Canaday. D.Jackson for 83 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on TB-I.Johnson, Offensive Holding, 9 yards, enforced at TB 17
After the Buccaneers made it a 10-point game midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers offense needed to come out and put a lengthy drive together, either to kill clock and punt, or get at least a field goal on the board to make it a 13-point game. Instead, the offense did neither, running 5 plays and gaining 12 yards.
The Steelers had to punt the ball away, and back deep was the ever-dangerous DeSean Jackson.
Jordan Berry boomed the punt inside the Buccaneers’ 20 yard line, but he completely outkicked his coverage, allowing Jackson to field the punt with plenty of running room to get up to full speed. From there, it was a wrap for the Steelers coverage unit as Jackson sprinted 83 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown, making it a 3-point game.
Pittsburgh was bailed out though by a holding call on Isaiah Johnson, negating the touchdown.
The Buccaneers ended up scoring on the ensuing drive anyway, but it forced them to drive the length of the field, chewing up another 3 minutes of clock. If that touchdown were to have stood, who knows what the outcome of Monday night’s game is in the end. The momentum was clearly on Tampa Bay’s side.
Play 4 — 2nd & 10 at PIT 12 (8:11 – 2nd) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right intended for D.Jackson INTERCEPTED by M.Hilton (J.Bostic) at PIT 6. M.Hilton to PIT 6 for no gain (P.Barber)
Holding a 16-7 lead, the Steelers defense found itself in a hole with its backs up against its own goal line midway through the second quarter.
Coming free off the edge on a blitz, Jon Bostic wasn’t able to get home in time, but he did get his hands up in the throwing lane for Ryan Fitzpatrick, batting the ball into the air, where Mike Hilton came down with it, keeping the Buccaneers off the board.
The interception was the second straight drive the Steelers defense forced a turnover.
Keeping Tampa Bay off the board in that situation was key, because not only did they not allow a touchdown, they didn’t even allow a field goal, which was a massive win for a beleaguered defense.
Pittsburgh’s offense wasn’t able to do anything with the ensuing drive, driving just 21 yards in four plays before punting after a couple of penalties.
Play 3 — 2nd & 10 at TB 2 (2:50 – 2nd) Bud Dupree 10 Yrd Interception Return C.Boswell extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry
Following a spectacular punt by Berry that pinned the Buccaneers at the 2 yard line, the Steelers defense came through once again with a turnover on its third straight possession.
After Peyton Barber rushed for no gain to start Tampa Bay’s drive, the Buccaneers were forced to take to the air. Again, Pittsburgh came through as outside linebacker Bud Dupree was gifted an overthrown pass that hit him right in the numbers. From there, Dupree raced into the end zone for the 10-yard pick-6, stretching Pittsburgh’s lead to 23-7, pulling away from Tampa Bay in primetime.
Play 2 — 4th & 5 at TB 29 (1:11 – 3rd) C.Boswell 47 yard field goal is No Good, Hit Right Upright, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry
It’s officially time to start worrying about Chris Boswell. For the third straight game Boswell missed a field goal, and for the second straight game he missed a field goal AND an extra point.
This miss came at the end of a good drive by the Steelers that covered 46 yards in 11 plays, chewing up 6 minutes of game clock. The play before the missed field goal, Ben Roethlisberger took an ill-advised sack for a 7-yard loss. However, the Steelers were clearly in Boswell range, but the Pro Bowl kicker clanked this one off the right upright again.
Maybe those 7 yards would have a made a difference, but this one loomed large as a made field goal would have made it a 33-13 game. Instead, the miss kept it a 17-point game until the Buccaneers drove the field after the miss and made it 30-20.
Play 1 — 3rd & 10 at PIT 25 (5:48 – 1st) Vance McDonald Pass From Ben Roethlisberger for 75 Yrds C.Boswell extra point is No Good, Hit Right Upright, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry
Talk about grown-man strength!
Vance McDonald is healthy and ready to make some plays.
Facing a 3rd and 10 trailing 7-0, McDonald got a free release off the line and found himself wide open on the flag route. Once McDonald made the catch, that’s when the highlight reel kicked in, as the veteran tight end stiff-armed Chris Conte to the ground with such force it seemed to shake the camera. From there, McDonald was home free for the 75-yard touchdown.
Boswell missed the extra point, but McDonald’s rumble seemed to spark the Steelers offense, which scored 10 points on the next two drives after the explosive touchdown.