Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)
Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014
1 p.m.; FOX
SERIES HISTORY: Steelers lead, 8-1 (3-0 in Pittsburgh) and have won the last four meetings. Pittsburgh has outscored Tampa Bay, 209-104, in the series.
LAST MEETING: Steelers 38, Buccaneers 13; Sept. 26, 2010; Raymond James Stadium. QB Charlie Batch made his first start since Dec. 30, 2007 a memorable one by throwing for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Batch was intercepted twice and also had a 24-yard scramble. RB Rashard Mendenhall carried 19 times for 143 yards and a touchdown, and DE Brett Keisel returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown. The Steelers scored 31 unanswered points to break open what had been a 7-6 game in the second quarter.
LAST WEEK**: The Steelers had two running backs rush for 100 yards in the same game for the first time since 1986 in their 37-19 win at Carolina (Le'Veon Bell 147, LeGarrette Blount 118). Pittsburgh produced its first two turnovers of the season and scored a touchdown on special teams (an end zone recovery of a fumbled punt return). The Buccaneers were beaten, 56-14, on Sept. 18 at Atlanta. Tampa Bay trailed, 21-0, after the first quarter, 35-0 at halftime and 56-0 entering the fourth quarter. It was the first time in Buccaneers history they'd faced a 56-0 deficit.
WHEN THE BUCCANEERS HAVE THE BALL: Chances are Tampa Bay will attempt to establish RB Doug Martin between the tackles (the Bucs haven't shown outside-zone capability lately) against a defense missing starters Jarvis Jones (ROLB), Ryan Shazier (ILB) and Ike Taylor (RCB). Martin (knee) hasn't started since Week 1. RB Bobby Rainey had 279 yards from scrimmage in the last two games in Martin's absence, but he also fumbled three times (he lost two in the disaster at Atlanta).
QB Mike Glennon takes over for Josh McCown (thumb) with a better history of decision-making as it relates to avoiding turnovers. Glennon likely will look to throw down the field to 6-foot-5 WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Neither has the speed of 6-5 Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin, so they can be pressed at the line of scrimmage if the Steelers opt to play it that way. Rookie TE Austin Serferian-Jenkins also presents a 6-5 target, but he has just one reception. This will be a tackle-the-catch week for the Steelers' defense when the jump ball can't be successfully defended.
The right side of the Tampa Bay offensive line features a couple of former undrafted free agents (RG Patrick Omameh and RT Demar Dotson). When breakdowns have occurred in run blocking and pass protection, they've most often occurred on the right side of the Buccaneers' line.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL: They'll be confronted by a defense that counts on generating front-four pressure in front of a Cover 2 look designed to keep the ball in front of the secondary, much the same way Carolina played it. SS Mark Barron (6-2, 213) and FS Dashon Goldson (6-2, 200) come up fast against both the run and the pass with violent intent. CB Johnthan Banks has been targeted by previous Tampa Bay opponents. CB Alterraun Verner and nickel Leonard Johnson, likewise, aren't speed guys. Steelers receivers don't figure to see much turn-and-run coverage.
DT Gerald McCoy is regarded by many as Tampa Bay's best player. If he can play around a hand issue that kept him out of the Atlanta game, the Bucs will count on him to penetrate, disrupt and rush the passer (as Warren Sapp used to back in the day). The Steelers will be facing a defense that's already lost CB Mike Jenkins and DE Adrian Clayborn, two players who were being counted upon heavily, to the injured reserve list.
SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS: The Steelers drew an encroachment penalty on a fourth-and-4 field goal attempt and scored a touchdown on a punt against the Panthers (the return was muffed, recovered and then fumbled). The Buccaneers surrendered a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown to the Falcons' Devin Hester.
THE X-FACTOR: The Buccaneers were competitive in losing, 20-14, to the Panthers and, 19-17, to the Rams at home to open the season (Carolina and St. Louis both played backup quarterbacks) prior to getting absolutely dismantled in Atlanta. Will they respond to the blowout loss by coming together or by coming unglued? And will the Steelers approach a seemingly-overmatched opponent with complacency or focus?
THEY SAID IT: "I think they rose to the challenge, to a tough task. They took a lot of pride and a lot of hurt to the Baltimore game. I think they kind of put all that into a little ball of rage and took it out on Carolina." – Ben Roethlisberger on the offensive line's play in Sunday night's 37-19 victory at Carolina.
"I don't use 'special' very often, but I think you could use that with him and his play. I think he's a special running back and as good a running back as there is in the league." – Tampa Bay Coach Lovie Smith on Bell.