The Steelers take a 13-10 lead into the second half. Joshua Dobbs started the game, but outside of some big plays to James Washington and a couple of scrambles of his own, found it difficult to move the offense down the field, leaving with three points. Mason Rudolph led the Steelers on a 65-yard touchdown drive on his first possession, capping it off with an eight-yard connection to Washington. Tyler Matakevich forced a fumble on a sack to give Rudolph a short field for his second drive, but had to settle for another field goal.
Since Jameis Winston and the starting offense marched down the field on an extended opening drive, the defense has settled down. Devin Bush and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi have been the two most notable players so far, the pair even teaming up on a fourth-down stop. Justin Layne has struggled for the most part, playing off the receiver allowing big cushions and struggling to finish tackles. Benny Snell, Jr. has has his hits and misses as well.
The directional kick on the kickoff prevented Johnny Holton from having a shot at a return. Snell got the first touch of the half, picking up five yards. He kept at it on second down, but was stopped for a short loss. Now third and six, Rudolph showed great mobility under pressure, able to flush out and get a pass off, but it was incomplete. J.C. Hassenauer a left guard was flagged for a hold anyway.
Ian Berryman now punting, he send it deep, but went for a touchback. Layne and Jordan Dangerfield made the tackle after a six-yard run off the right side. He allowed the back out of a shoe-string tackle on second down, but it’s still third and one. A straight-ahead run got five up the middle.
Ryan Griffin overthrew his target down the field to start the next set of downs. A quick screen was limited to four yards. Now third and six, Robert Spillane was in coverage to force an incompletion on a poorly-thrown ball. Punting from the 37, Spencer fielded it at the 22 and looked threatening for a bit, but only got about 10 yards. A short completion to Johnny Holton nearly turned into a touchdown with some great YAC work, including shaking out of a tackle with a juke move, setting up a first and goal.
Trey Edmunds plowed ahead for three yards from the six. It didn’t look like Rudolph had anybody to throw to on second down, but he showed good patience with the protection, finding rookie tight end Zach Gentry for the touchdown. Matthew Wright’s point after attempt was good, making it 20-10.
From the 20 to start the next drive, it was Matakevich making the tackle at the line of scrimmage. Isaiah Buggs did a nice job of disrupting the throwing lane on an errant pass, Adeniyi in coverage. Now third and long, Griffin’s pass sailed out of harm’s way, resulting in another punt. Spencer back again, he fielded at the 23, getting nine.
Devlin Hodges checked in with over a quarter and a half to play. His first play was a handoff to Trey Edmunds for two. On second down, he tried to lead Kevin Rader down the field but incomplete. Now third down, following a delay of game, Hodges’ pass for Spencer was dropped for what should have been a first down. A bad play for both in terms of trying to make the roster, as it ends a drive early for the fourth quarterback. Berryman’s punt was fair caught at the 24 after 46 yards.
Now mostly third- and fourth-teamers in on defense. Marcus Allen in single coverage on the tight end on first down, making the tackle to force a third and intermediate. He and Tuzar Skipper made the stop on second down, but converted on third down, P.J. Locke on the tackle across midfield.
Spillane was in trail coverage on a long completion to the tight end down to the 21. It was Skipper on the pressure, nearly getting the sack, but Griffin was able to get the ball out. Buggs tried to intercept it. After a discussion, the officials decided to throw a flag for intentional grounding. Now second and 20, back to the 31, though, Spillane was beat again for 21 yards to Watson. On first down from the 10, it’s a one-play effort for the score, another missed tackle by Layne. Going for two, miscommunication results in the pass sailing incomplete. Layne had a better chance of intercepting and returning it.
Hodges looked deep for Holton, incomplete, but the officials ruled a defensive pass interference. Bruce Arians challenged the ruling, but the ruling stood. Arians was not impressed with that judgement.
Now down to the Bucs’ 49, Hodges got the ball out quick to Gentry for a short gain of six. Neutral zone infraction gave the Steelers a first down. Off play action, Hodges rolled out right a bit, finding Gentry for eight. He found a sliding Holton for 10 on the following play.
Just outside the 20, Snell got the handoff but there was nothing doing on the play. Hodges showed some mobility to escape pressure before throwing a duck, but there was a hold on Hassenauer (again) on the play. Now second and 20, Hodges’ pass was offline for Tevin Jones, incomplete, setting up third and 20. Snell showed good hands on the screen, picking up the 20 yards needed.
Now from the 10, Snell gets the handoff for a couple yards up the middle. Going five wide out of 11, Hodges found Jones for the score. He had a strong fourth preseason game last year, and now doing well in the first in 2019. It’s not 27-16 after Boswell connected on the extra point.
The ball came out on the ensuing kickoff, but the Buccaneers recovered. They once again were flagged for a hold on the kickoff, which is impressive in its own way. Mike Tomlin challenged the ruling of a fumble and recovery by Tampa Bay. There is no evidence of a clear recovery by the Steelers, so this appears to be a foolish challenge, based on the available camera angles. In fact, there’s a clear recovery by the Buccaneers. Tomlin rusty, even with Teryl Austin’s presumed help.
From the eight, Griffin finds Wilson in front of Layne, running away from the rookie cornerback for some extra yards. From the 28, the third-round pick got caught for illegal use of the hands. Spillane was in coverage again on a near-reception but in good position. Pressure by J.T. Jones forced a throwaway, but offsetting penalties (a hold on Spillane) negated the play. Allen on coverage on a second-down reception to make it third and two. Tuzar Skipper this time completed the sack off the left side, forcing a punt. Spencer let the punt bounce, but was able to cut up the left side for a solid gain.
Trey Edmunds ripped off a nice first-down run to begin Hodges’ third possession. At the Bucs’ 30, he had to fight to get back to the line of scrimmage. The second-down pass was a bit off-line but skipped off Edmunds’ hands, fortunately bouncing incomplete. Now third and long, he nearly threw an interception after spinning out of pressure and forcing a duck down the field. However, the defender was flagged for hands to the face working against Spencer.
Edmunds back on the carry, was cut down following a gain of a yard. Hodges narrowly avoided a sack–and an intentional grounding–on second down by getting the ball out in Trevor Wood’s direction. Now third and nine, he threw high for Reilly, but it was off the receiver’s outstretched hands. Wright was good on the field goal from beyond 40 to make it 30-16.
Dravon Askew-Henry was in coverage on a first-down incompletion to the left side. He made a tackle a couple of plays later after a first down. Now second and one, Griffin’s pass was offline, but DSH was in good position. Griffin did complete in front of Mathis, the new cornerback.
Near midfield, Griffin’s pass was offline down the field. Another incompletion in the right flat set up third and 10. The defense put good pressure on Griffin, but he got out and found his target, slipping out of DSH’s grasp for the first down to the 25.
He connected again to Shnell, down to the four, Allen on the tackle to set up first and goal. Greg Gilmore got great initial penetration on the ensuing carry, possibly drawing the holding call that pushed Tampa Bay back to the 14. Ulysees Gilbert II showed great speed to chase down a dangerous-looking screen. Now from the 8, Griffin’s ball hits the grass. On third and goal, Griffin’s pass fell way short, having Schnell open for the score, but J.T. Jones was offside. Now from the four, Griffin’s pass sails out of the end zone on a fade, not even close to where it needed to be. On fourth down, Hudson made the scoring grab in a tight window with a great one-handed effort. The Bucs going for two again, the pass was picked off by Gilbert.
Spencer with a nice return on the kickoff out past the 30. Hodges released on third down and found Spencer in space for 15 yards. At midfield, Travon McMillian was stuffed for no gain. A sidearm pass to Kevin Rader resulting in another good gain, but the hit on the tackle knocked the ball out, the Buccaneers recovering in now a one-score game with 2:21 to go.
Gilbert got a hit on Griffin as he threw to cut a deep pass short. Scales helped force an incompletion over the middle after the receiver bobbled the ball. Now third and 10, Askew-Henry forced a tackle short of the chains as we hit the two-minute warning.
Griffin did complete to Schnell for the conversion, and then he found space quickly on the following play to get down the field at the 22. P.J. Locke missed undercutting the ball.
Gilbert came in on the blitz again and this time got the sack, knocking the ball loose. The football spilled deep down the field backward, but the Bucs ultimately recovered, though for a substantial loss.
Now second and 28, Griffin stepped up into the pocket and connected with Schnell to the 18. On third and six, Gilbert pressured off the edge, helping to allow Jones to finish the sack. On fourth and 11, Griffin completed to Hudson. Marcelis Branch finished with a hard hit, resulting in a hit on a defenseless receiver. Now from the five, Branch make contact to force the incompletion on first down. On second and goal, DSH was flagged for holding. A new set of downs. One carry just short of the end zone. He was short again on second down. Now third and goal, however, he punched it in with 10 seconds remaining. Arians went for two, down two, Griffin throwing a terrible pass as the Steelers win 30-28.