BUCCANEERS 27, STEELERS 24
Steelers' record: 2-2
One year ago: 0-4
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 8-2
It was a question posed to Coach Mike Tomlin by Steelers play-by-play man Bill Hillgrove: How did the Steelers go from playing so poorly in Baltimore to the kind of performance they put together in Carolina?
"The reality is that in NFL football, there's not much difference between drinking wine and squashing grapes," said Tomlin. "It's details, it's hard work and preparation throughout the week, and guys having an understanding of situations when those situations are presented inside stadiums. Not much difference. Guys just were on the details, and let's hope that continues."
Back in August – following a couple of quality sessions vs. the Buffalo Bills – the Steelers admittedly thought too highly of themselves and the Philadelphia Eagles spanked them thoroughly the following Thursday night. A roster that's filled with as many young players and newcomers as the Steelers' roster can be prone to inconsistencies of performance from one week to the next. Even after handling the Panthers, veteran Brett Keisel sounded this warning:
"Hopefully we can enjoy this win (Sunday night) and not be like, 'Oh, we're the greatest team ever,'" Keisel said. "We got to continue to stay grounded. We got to continue to work hard. We got to continue to have a chip on our shoulder and work like we're the underdogs."
The 0-3 Buccaneers arrived in Pittsburgh as the underdog, fresh off a 56-14 embarrassment to the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Sept. 18. The early history of the 2014 season has had the teams that were embarrassed on a Thursday night coming back with a quality performance in their next outing.
Green Bay lost in Seattle, and then came back to handle the Jets; and the Steelers bounced back from their loss to the Ravens in Baltimore with that victory in Carolina over the Panthers.
Having lost three defensive starters last week vs. the Panthers, the Steelers had some lineup changes to make. Arthur Moats started at right outside linebacker for Jarvis Jones; Sean Spence started for Ryan Shazier. William Gay started at cornerback for Ike Taylor, and Brice McCain became the nickel back.
The Buccaneers arrived in Pittsburgh as one of the three winless teams in the league, and they also would be without several of their key players by the time the game ended. For a team facing these odds in a game on the road, it's important to have a quick start, and that's exactly what the Steelers allowed on the game's opening possession.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Steelers first offensive series went like this: run for no gain; sack for a loss of 6 yards, sack/strip/recovery at the Pittsburgh 9-yard line. Two plays later, Mike Glennon completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans for a 7-0 lead, and the Buccaneers had the jolt of confidence they needed to continue toward an upset victory.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Understand this only pertains to the penalties that were accepted: It was 11 for 96 yards vs. the Browns in the opener; nine for 75 yards on that Thursday night in Baltimore; 11 for 91 yards in Carolina in the win over the Panthers; and 13 for 125 yards in the loss to the Buccaneers. That averages out to 11 penalties for 97 yards per game, and at this pace the Steelers would hit 176 penalties for 1,448 yards for the entire regular season.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
The Buccaneers were 0-for-4 on third downs in the first half; 7-for-9 in the second half.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT III
In some ways, this was the best the Steelers' run defense has performed all season. The Buccaneers finished with 63 rushing yards and averaged 3.2 per carry, and 19 of those came on a reverse to receiver Solomon Patton. In terms of running backs being handed the ball, the Buccaneers did that 19 times for 44 yards.