TAMPA _ They were far from perfect on offense, defense and especially on special teams, but in the end they were good enough.
And at 0-1-1 heading into Monday night's meeting with the undefeated Buccaneers, good enough was just enough for the Steelers.
"We needed it drastically," inside linebacker Vince Williams assessed of a 30-27 survival at Raymond James Stadium. "We got it, too."
Added cornerback Joe Haden: "We're going to go look at the film but the biggest thing, no matter what happend, was leaving here with a 'W.'"
The Steelers earned their first win of the season and evened their record at 1-1-1 despite:
- Possessing the ball for just 13:44 in the third and fourth quarters and scoring zero points while a 30-10 halftime lead ultimately dwindled to a three-point advantage.
- Surrendering 411 passing yards to Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
- Committing 13 enforced penalties (among 16 total infractions) for 155 yards, including six penalties for 75 yards on special teams. Kicker Chris Boswell also missed an extra point and a 47-yard field goal attempt.
It wasn't pretty at times, but with the game hanging in the balance the defense forced a three-and-out on a possession that began at the Tampa Bay 20-yard line with 3:02 left in regulation.
Then offense was then able to grind down the final 2:36 upon regaining possession.
"I thought our defense played awesome, creating turnovers, giving us some short fields, making some stops," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger insisted. "It was fun to get them involved.
"I told the team afterwards that was a total team win, all the phases, and that's what Steeler Football's about."
SPLASH IMPACT: The defense kept finding ways to make its mark, as Roethlisberger referenced, around surrendering all those passing yards.
The Steelers had three interceptions, one of which was returned 10 yards for a touchdown by outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
They also registered three sacks, including one from outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo that knocked Tampa Bay out of field goal range in the second quarter.
And there was a forced fumble by cornerback Artie Burns after a completion to wide receiver Chris Godwin that was recovered by nickel cornerback Mike Hilton and set the Steelers up for a short-field touchdown drive in the second.
Such plays help win games in an NFL that's trending away from dominating defense for a myriad of reasons.
"Not every game is going to be perfect," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "In the Super Bowl, there were plenty of passing yards and it came down to the last stop. It's always going to come down to that, who can make the lasting imprint and who can get off the field when they need to as a defense.
"We just gotta grow from this. I like the way we played in the first half. That third quarter was a little abysmal but we battled back and we won the game."
STIFF-ARM FOR SIX: Tight end Vance McDonald scored on a 75-yard, catch-and-run hookup with Roethlisberger in the first quarter that included hauling in a short pass on third-and-10 from the Steelers 25 and then stiff-arming Buccaneers safety Chris Conte out of the way in the vicinity of the 45.
After that, McDonald was gone.
"I love contact," he said. "If a DB or a safety wants to take me up high, then God bless 'em because I'm going to hit 'em hard. A lot of times I don't think about using the stiff-arm but he was just slow-playing it so much he gave me a big target."
"Just kind of like waiting for me to cut back in the field or whatever," McDonald explained. "Yeah, that's a mistake."
DIFFERENT LOOK: Burns was replaced in the starting lineup by Cory Sensabaugh. The two shared right cornerback on a two-series-apiece rotation.
"We'll keep working and playing until someone shows themselves in terms of being solid in that area," head coach Mike Tomlin said.
Tomlin doesn't want the two playing harder.
He wants one of them to play better.
"Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh, those guys kicked in," Tomlin said. "We just gotta have better play in terms of not giving up that big play down the field in 1-on-1 circumstances."
NO APOLOGIES NECESSARY: Roethlisberger didn't like the way he reacted after an incompletion for wide receiver Antonio Brown on third-and-9 from the Tampa Bay 36 with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter.
The execution was well off on the play, including Brown not looking back for the ball in time.
It cost the Steelers an initial chance to run out the clock.
Roethlisberger made an announcement about it prior to taking questions from the media after the game.
"I'd like to start this off by just apologizing to Antonio Brown for showing a little bit too much emotion on that last third down pass to him," Roethlisberger said. "I'd like to say I apologize to him for that."
Brown appreciated the gesture but found an apology under such circumstances unnecessary.
"For what?" Brown responded, when told of Roethlisberger's remarks. "Ben's a competitor, he loves me. No one playing this game is perfect. I mess up things. We all mess up, it's a part of being humans. But he always makes me feel good communicating and talking to me.
"It's like when your wife tells you you're looking strong getting the groceries. It makes you want to get more groceries."