PITTSBURGH, PA (WFLA) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to improve their record to 4-2 with a road test Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Last Sunday the Bucs built a 21-0 lead over the Atlanta Falcons but had to hang on for a close 21-15 victory. The Steelers endured a miserable day on the road a week ago, losing to the Buffalo Bills 38-3.
While the Bucs enter the game as a solid 7.5-point favorite, the players are not taking anything lightly, especially at a venue that is difficult for away teams. The Bucs last visited Acrisure Stadium in 2014, recording one of their two wins all season.
Wide Receiver Mike Evans caught his first NFL touchdown pass that day from quarterback Mike Glennon. A lot has changed in the 78 touchdown grabs that have followed that first one but the goal remains the same.
Three things to watch in today’s game:
Build a lead, then maintain it.
Up 21-0 a week ago, the Bucs began rolling both on offense and defense until a three-and-out drive gave Atlanta the ball. The Falcons scored a touchdown and two consecutive three-and-out drives followed, setting up the Falcons for another touchdown drive, cutting the Bucs lead to just six points. As the defense began to show fatigue, the offense was unable to sustain any drive until its final possession at the two-minute warning. The Steelers’ defense was hit for multiple big plays in a lopsided loss to the Buffalo Bills. If the Bucs can get to a two-score lead, the offense will get another chance to show it can be efficient with a lead.
Make Pickett have a long day.
Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has Pittsburgh excited after it absorbed the retirement of the great Ben Roethlisberger. After entering his first NFL game two weeks ago, Pickett made his first start at Buffalo, showing signs that patience will be necessary as he develops. Pickett helped Pittsburgh answer a quick strike drive by the Bills with a field goal drive, keeping the Steelers around 7-3 early. Then the game turned. By day’s end, Pickett was forced to throw 52 pass attempts and the Steelers offense turned the ball over on downs three times in the second half. If the Bucs play with the lead, look for a relentless pass rush that has recorded 19 quarterback sacks already this season, tied for third in the NFL.
Make defensive backfield depth an issue.
While the Bucs will play today without Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and Safety Logan Ryan, it’s the Steelers that are dealing with a devastating scenario in the defensive backfield. Four players are listed as “out” for the game including standout Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, another young star that has Steelers fans keen about the future. No matter who fills in, the Bucs must get the football down the field, utilizing Wide Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Even rookie Tight End Cade Otton emerged a week ago, filling in for Cam Brate, catching six passes. But the leading receiver for the Bucs against Atlanta? Running Back Leonard Fournette, who hauled in 83 yards to go with 56 yards on the ground. If quarterback Tom Brady gets the protection he enjoyed much of last week, he could pick his spots against a depleted Steelers defense.