Against all odds your Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0!
Even after an improbable win week one on the road in New Orleans the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still weren’t getting any respect nationally. Going into week two’s game against the defending champs you couldn’t find one national pundit that was picking the Buccaneers to win that game. Has anything changed this week? The Steelers are dysfunctional at best while the Bucs are red hot and people have noticed. This week we are beginning to see some of the media pick the Bucs over the Steelers. Tampa Bay is starting to get a little of the national spotlight. That’s something they aren’t accustomed to, the Bucs are usually an afterthought. Ryan Fitzpatrick has put the Buccaneers on the national map, essentially because he has single handedly created a QB controversy. How will the team respond to this attention? Ideally they will ignore it and keep playing as if they are the underdogs.
Looking at this weeks match up with Pittsburgh, what will it take for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to shock the world and be 3-0?
Although through two games the Steelers sit at 0-1-1, they are doing a lot of things right. Defensively they are third in the league with 8 sacks and have forced four fumbles which is good for second place. The pass defense is middle of the pack, ranked 14th even after Patrick Mahomes lit them up for six touchdowns this past Sunday. Where they are most vulnerable defensively is against the run. They are currently ranked 30th and are giving up 4.8 yards per carry. Sunday is a great opportunity for the Bucs to get their rushing attack going.
Statistically the Steelers passing attack is 2nd in the league, sitting tight behind Fitzmagic and the Bucs who are currently holding down the top spot.
Even in the midst of Le’Veon Bell’s absence the Pittsburgh offense is still a force to be reckoned with. They are 2nd in yards per game and 9th in points scored while putting up an average of 29 points per game. They haven’t been quite as good in the run game, they currently have the 20th best rushing attack in the league. The Bucs are all the way down at 27th. The key to this week’s game for Tampa Bay will be slowing down the Steelers passing attack. The Bucs have posted the 2nd best run defense in the league but the passing defense still struggles and are ranked 31st.
The Buccaneers secondary is growing up before our eyes but they face a big test this week.
At times against the Eagles we saw three rookies in the secondary for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carton Davis, MJ Stewart, and Jordan Whitehead all played significant roles against Philadelphia. Second year player Justin Evans and third year player, the much maligned Ryan Smith, were also a crucial. The good news? None of them looked like a liability. Nick Foles was still able to complete passes at a high percentage but we didn’t see any of the big breakdowns in coverage we have become accustomed to seeing. I think it’s safe to say Ryan Smith had the best game of his career. Jordan Whitehead played well enough that I think he will start taking snaps from Chris Conte. Stewart and Davis looked like they belong. Justin Evans looks like he’s growing into the playmaker we all expect him to be. Dare I say the future is bright for the Bucs secondary?
That was Foles, this is Roethlisberger.
The Steelers present a much bigger challenge for the young secondary than the Eagles. We aren’t exactly sure what’s going on with Antonio Brown but I’m expecting to see the best version of him this Monday night. He’s not happy and has been vocal about it. Currently he isn’t the teams leading receiver, that goes to Juju Smith Schuster. I look for Roethlisberger and Brown to come out and try to doing something about that. Brown wants to be the guy and the Steelers want to keep him happy. This could create turnover opportunities for the Buccaneers. Expect the Steelers to force the ball early and often to Antonio Brown, perhaps even when they shouldn’t. Hopefully the secondary can cash in and create a couple turnovers. The defensive backs are growing and what better time to show the world you have arrived than on Monday night football?
The Buccaneers will keep rolling.
By making the Steelers one dimensional, which the Bucs can do, they can win this game. Pittsburgh is in a bit of disarray at the moment and the young Tampa Bay secondary will capitalize on this. Expect this game to be a huge confidence builder for the young defensive backs. They have been thrown into the fire the past couple weeks and should be getting more comfortable with each snap. Look for them to rise to the occasion this week and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to walk away with the victory.