After bouncing back last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will now go on the road. This was a much needed win after dropping their first two home games. This week they will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
The Steelers have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this year. A franchise that is as successful as any in the NFL has looked lost this season. They are fresh off a 38-3 beatdown from the Buffalo Bills and sit at a 1-4 record overall.
With one of the best coaches of the last decade in Mike Tomlin running the show, you expect the Steelers to turn things around. Hopefully that won’t be this week against a Bucs offense that has struggled this year. We look at the key matchups to know how the game will be decided.
Steelers Rookie QB vs NFL Defense
The Steelers saw Ben Roethlisberger retire last year after leading Pittsburgh to one last playoff berth. As a result, the Steelers drafted University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round of the most recent draft.
Pickett got his first start last week against the Bills. He threw for over 300 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. All things considered, I’ve seen much worse first starts. With that taste of experience he will look to improve this week at home.
From a Bucs perspective, this should be easy enough to prevent. Pickett doesn’t do anything special that should give them problems. He does have a rocket arm, nor does he have great athletic ability. From a talent standpoint, this should be a manageable matchup for Todd Bowles and company.
However, Pickett was drafted as a smart and NFL ready type of prospect. He likely won’t be rattled easily and we should assume that he’s in over his head. This is the type of matchup to pick your spots to blitz and just let your talent shine.
Steelers O-Line vs Bucs D-Line
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a mess on paper. Honestly, it hasn’t looked much better in real life. This is a weakness that can be pointed to with this Steelers roster and it can be exploited by the Bucs.
Running the ball should be a struggle. Despite investing a first round pick in Najee Harris two years ago, the big guys up front can’t create much space for him to run. As a result, the Steelers rank 29th in rushing this year.
This is good news for a Buccaneers defense that has looked shockingly bad vs the run. After being one of the most dominant run defenses in the league the last few years, the Bucs have looked very vulnerable this season. This was unexpected with a personnel group that has largely stayed the same.
If the Bucs defensive line can’t control this game then it’s time to really start to worry. This is a game that Vita Vea and company should have their way with. Anything less than excellence in this one opens the door for a pretty bad Pittsburgh offense.
Steelers’ LBs vs Bucs’ RBs & TEs
The Steelers have a reasonably talented middle of their defense. Devin Bush was a first round pick in 2019 and he has Devin White type athletic ability. Next to him is Myles Jack, another great athlete, and Alex Highsmith, who is one of the up and coming young pass rushers in the league.
This group is as versatile as it is talented. Bush has the sideline to sideline speed as a run defender, where Jack has the movement skills to be a strong coverage matchup. Each guy has a different and valuable skill set.
The Buccaneers running backs and tight ends will have to have another good week like they did against Atlanta. These two groups combined for 154 receiving yards in last week’s win against the Falcons. This came mostly from short plays within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
The quick passing game is critical to this offense. Not to mention what these groups do carrying the ball and as blockers. This will be a big factor in slowing down Highsmith and the speed of Bush.
This Steelers defense isn’t bad with stars like Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick. However, it will be hard for that group to carry this offense. Even with playmakers like Chase Claypool and Diontea Johnson, this offense is just not good enough at it’s foundation.
Expect another low scoring game this week. This Bucs offense seems to slowly be finding themselves, but this Steelers defense will be a more difficult test than last week. It should be a good measuring stick game on the road for this offense and where they’re at.
Buccaneers – 20
Steelers – 10
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