The Steelers got the better of Tom Brady in what could be his final visit to Pittsburgh.
Kenny Pickett was knocked out of the game with a concussion midway through the third quarter on a hit from Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White. But Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers' deposed starter, entered and threw a touchdown pass to Chase Claypool with just under 10 minutes remaining to lift the Steelers to a 28-18 upset of Brady and the Buccaneers before a supercharged crowd of 67,307 at Acrisure Stadium Sunday.
The Steelers managed just 272 yards of offense, but a defense missing four of its five top players in the secondary managed to hold Brady in check enough to allow the offense to find itself.
"I can't say enough about that secondary group that we had out there," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "It was a great opportunity for a lot of those guys. First opportunity in some instances. Redemption in some instances. Guys getting an opportunity to get back in the fold.
"I just can't say enough about what they were able to do collectively. It's a challenge when you play Tom Brady. I thought they did a really good job of letting our disguises work for us. We didn't have a big menu because we can't have a big menu. We got some young guys and inexperienced guys playing. So whatever we had, we had to dress it up. And I just thought they did a really good job dressing it up and fighting the fight down-in and down-out."
That defensive effort allowed the Steelers offense to do just enough to pull out the win.
"It was very necessary," said Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward of the win. "But it doesn't absolve us of our record. This is something we have to keep working toward. It's great to get the win, but it's a great learning moment for a lot of guys. As many good plays as we made, there are bad plays out there. We take the good with the bad and try to keep growing from this, keep stacking wins."
Trubisky made several big throws after entering for an injured Pickett, none bigger than a 17-yard completion to Claypool on third-and-15, and then a third-and-11, 26-yard completion to Claypool that allowed the Steelers to run out the clock.
"I was ready to go," Trubisky said. "And in those situations you just got to be ready when your number's called. I just wanted to come in and help the team win any way I could.
"It was fun to see. We all kind of rallied around. We just got to continue to pick each other up and stick together. So it was a hard-fought win, definitely a big-time team win and we just got to continue to improve."
Benched at half in a lackluster loss to the Jets three weeks ago here at Acrisure Stadium, Trubisky completed 9 of 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown and helped the Steelers (2-4) break a four-game losing streak and win what will likely be their final meeting with the 45-year-old Brady, who fell to 12-4 in his career in the regular season against Pittsburgh.
Brady finished the game 25 of 40 for 243 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, while Tampa Bay (3-3) managed just 75 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
"We really practiced hard this week and dove into the details," said cornerback Josh Jackson, who along with James Pierre, Quincy Wilson and Elijah Riley were thrust into more prominent roles in this game. "Everybody did what they were supposed to do. It was a great win to be a part of.
"We had great communication. That's my first win on Tom Brady. I've played him three times in my career."
The undermanned Steelers defense did more than hold its own in the first half, keeping Tampa Bay out of the end zone despite allowing two red zone trips and also forcing the Bucs off the field three times on three-and-outs.
The Steelers, meanwhile, scored on the game's opening possession, getting into the end zone on their first drive of the game for the first time this season. Pickett was 5 for 5 on the drive and also scrambled for 10 yards as he finished it off with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 6 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Acrisure Stadium
Tampa Bay, which had gone three-and-out on the game's opening possession, answered by driving to the Pittsburgh 17, but Brady three three consecutive incompletions and the Bucs settled for a 30-yard Ryan Succop field goal.
Tampa Bay drove to the Pittsburgh 1 on its next possession, but on second-and-goal, Larry Ogunjobi dropped Leonard Fournette for a 3-yard loss and Cam Heyward sacked Brady on third down to force another Succop field goal.
The Steelers answered with a field goal drive of their own to make it 10-6, as Pickett converted a pair of third downs with passes to Claypool and Diontae Johnson, but a Kevin Dotson holding penalty backed them up, forcing a kick.
Boswell's 55-yard attempt hit the crossbar and bounced over for the conversion with 4:12 remaining in the half.
The two teams then traded three-and-outs the remainder of the half, with the Steelers getting the ball back at their own 14 with 46 seconds remaining. An incompletion on first down and then two runs forced Tampa Bay to use its final two timeouts, but the Steelers were forced to punt the ball back to the Bucs with 23 seconds remaining.
Brady completed a 15-yard pass to Chris Godwin on first down and after a spike and throw away, Succop kicked another field goal, this one from 54 yards to make it 10-9 at the half.
Steven Sims returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the Tampa Bay 12 before being run down from behind by Jamel Dean. That proved to be a big play for Tampa Bay, as Pickett threw a pair of incompletions following a 6-yard pass to to Johnson on first down, and the Steelers settled for a 25-yard Boswell field goal and a 13-9 lead.
Tampa Bay mounted another drive into the red zone on its next possession, but Brady again threw incomplete on second and third downs and the Bucs settled for another short Succop field goal, this one from 24 yards, to cut the Steelers' lead to 13-12 with 7:24 remaining in the third quarter.
At that point, Brady was 13 of 27 for 156 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Pickett was knocked out of the game on the first play of the next possession, taking a shot from White as he threw a pass to Johnson. Pickett's head snapped and hit the ground as he landed.
Johnson came back to the ball and made the catch on the fluttering pass, but Dotson was penalized for holding on the play, negating the gain.
Pickett was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return, finishing 11 of 18 for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Tampa Bay tight end Cameron Brate suffered a concussion on the next series after being hit by Terrell Edmunds and Myles Jack. He was placed on a body board and carted off the field, though he had movement of his arms and legs.