Still looking for their first win of the season, the (0-1-1) Pittsburgh Steelers head to Raymond James Stadium to take on the NFL’s biggest surprise of the early season, the (2-0) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8.15pm ET Monday).
It’s hard to believe the Steelers have gotten off to such a slow start given the way their regular season went last year. Pittsburgh won 13 games in 2017 and were the class of the AFC. Having won the AFC North for the second year in a row and third time in the last four years, the Steelers had looked for their run of success to continue into 2018 but they have yet to find that spark.
Perhaps it’s the fact that Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for 1,291 yards last year and averaged 86.1 yards per game (third best in the NFL) last year, hasn’t taken a single snap in 2018 due to his holdout. Perhaps it’s the fact that Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 4,251 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 2017, has already thrown three interceptions with just four touchdowns in 2018. Perhaps its Pittsburgh’s defense and the fact that they have only forced two turnovers compared to the six they’ve committed, which is a giveaway/takeaway mark that ranks dead last in the league. Or perhaps it’s all of these factors put together.
The Steelers opened the season on the road against the Cleveland Browns in what everyone was assuming would be an absolute layup. Even without Bell, there was no doubt Pittsburgh would get the win over the team that hadn’t had a victory since 2016. There was no way Pittsburgh was going to lose that game.
Well, those people weren’t exactly wrong as the Steelers didn’t lose to the Browns. But they didn’t win either. Pittsburgh had their chances. They led 21-7 going into the fourth quarter but instead of being able to seal the deal, something they would have easily done last year, the Steelers allowed the Browns to get back in the game. Roethlisberger made some crucial mistakes and before Pittsburgh knew it, the game was tied. Forcing overtime, the Browns had their chances to win as did the Steelers but neither team could pull the trigger. This resulted in a tie, which for the Steelers may as well have been a loss given the situation.
For the second game of the season, Pittsburgh welcomed the Kansas City Chiefs to Heinz Field. The two teams put together an absolute shootout. Kansas City struck first with 21 in the first quarter followed up by Pittsburgh doing the same in the second. Both teams kept attacking but ultimately, Kansas City, specifically Patrick Maholmes and his 326-yards, six touchdown game, was too much to get past. Even though Roethlisberger had a stellar outing himself, throwing for 452 yards and three touchdowns. Once again, the lack of a running game hurt the Steelers as they only managed 34 yards on the ground compared to 127 for the Chiefs.
Fitz Magic Leads Buccaneers to Huge Start
Ryan Fitzpatrick was not meant to be the Tampa Bay starting quarterback. In fact, there wasn’t even a job available for him to win in the preseason. Fitzpatrick was merely the backup, asked to fill in for Jameis Winston while he served a three-game suspension. Sunday is the last game of Winston’s suspension but the way things are going, he will be the one returning to a back-up role as Fitzpatrick has been absolutely on fire.
The 35-year-old journeyman, Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in passing yards with 819 through two games. He has thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception, which has led the Bucs to back-to-back upset victories over the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. Fitzpatrick has lit the league on fire and as long as he stays white hot, there is no reason to take the starting job from him. He has been the best QB in the NFL and has led one of the league’s top-three offenses in the process.
Without much of a running game (Tampa Bay ranks 27th in the NFL), the Bucs have relied on their NFL-best passing game as the biggest contributing factors to their 2-0 start. Beyond just Fitzpatrick and his receivers, Tampa Bay’s offensive line has been among the best in the NFL as well. The unit has allowed just two sacks on Fitzpatrick, which has allowed him the time and space to make the great plays he has performed in the first two games of the season.
There is no way of knowing if the Fitz magic will continue all season long but for now, fans sure are enjoying it while it lasts.
Our Preview’s Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
It has been a tough go for the Steelers and it doesn’t look to be getting better anytime soon. This team has been lost without Bell on offense and Ryan Shazier on defense. Still struggling to find their way, Pittsburgh’s season could be over sooner rather than later.
The Bucs are outplaying every expectation and are doing it with a career back-up quarterback. Much like in their first two games this season, Tampa Bay enters game three as underdogs on paper. This time it is by a point at most. In fact most sportsbooks for residents of the United States can’t separate the teams for betting purposes.
If you fancy a wager then here are the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers predictions of this preview:
- For the first of the picks, we like the look of Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1pt @ -110 with either 5Dimes or Bookmaker. You can get the same spread at -115 betting odds with Bovada or Intertops.
- The total points likely to be scored in this Monday night NFL clash is generally set at a lofty 54.5pts. That being said, these two teams could be poised for another offensive juggernaut so that total should be topped. Go over 54pts @ -110 with Intertops. The other bookies are at 54.5pts or can’t match those odds.