Buccaneers Fall to Steelers 20-18 in Frustrating Loss

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Via Sports Talk Florida’s Michelle Sabin
Special to Bucs Report

The Buccaneers went three and out on the opening drive following a short rush by running back Leonard Fournette, and two incomplete passes to receiver Chris Godwin. This set the tone for what would be a frustrating day.

Meanwhile, the Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett wasted no time getting his team into the endzone. He found receiver George Pickens on a short outside route for 8 yards, before connecting with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool for two first downs. Tampa Bay’s defense increased the pressure allowing Antoine Winfield Jr to stop the run on second down with a loss of 4 yards. On 3rd and 6, they forced Pickett to throw an incomplete pass. Unfortunately, Devin White was called for roughing the passer giving Pittsburgh a first down on the 20-yard line.

Steelers Take The Lead

The Steelers ran the ball on the next three plays, but the Buccaneers defense held them to 4th and 1 at the 11-yard line. Pittsburgh converted on 4th and 1 with a short rush by Jaylen Warren before Pickett threw his first career touchdown. He found receiver Najee Harris on a short pass to the left. With the Buccaneers safety stuck in traffic, Harris all but walked right into the endzone on the 6-yard scoring play. The extra point was good, and the Steelers were on the board 7-0.

The Buccaneers answered on their second possession. The drive started out with Fournette on a 13-yard rush. Tom Brady then found receiver Mike Evans on a deep 20-yard pass in the middle, before Fournette carried the ball another 8 yards on two plays. The Buccaneers converted 3rd and 2 with rookie Rachaad White’s 3-yard rush, but eventually found themselves stuck on the 17-yard line.  After three incomplete passes to Cameron Brate, White and Godwin, they settled for a 30-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop.

Combined efforts by Tampa Bay’s special teams and defense forced the Steelers to go three and out and prevented another score in the first quarter. Buccaneers Ko Kieft stopped the return with a tackle on Steven Sims inside the 15-yard line. Pressure by the defense cut the run short on first down and forced Pickett to throw an incomplete on second down.  However, it was linebacker Shaquil Barrett and Winfield Jr who closed the drive. Barrett broke through the line going straight up the middle. As Pickett scrambled away, Winfield Jr attacked from the side and sacked the quarterback for a loss of 12 yards.

The Aftermath Reaction Show

Red Zone Woes

Brady got the ball back with less than two minutes and the drive continued into the second quarter. The Buccaneers made it into the red zone, but despite having a first down on the 3-yard line were unable to score a touchdown. There were two attempts by Fournette to rush the ball, but one resulted in a loss of 3 yards as tackle Larry Ogunjobi drove him backwards. On third down, Brady was sacked for a loss of 5 yards, and the Buccaneers were forced to take another 27-yard field.

Brady faced pressure throughout the entire game taking five hits and two sacks. His frustration was evident on the sidelines and in the post-game interview. Brady explained, “we just didn’t do well enough on third down and in short yardage situations, and certainly not well enough in the red area.”

A Frustrating Half

The first half ended following a 55-yard field goal for Steelers kicker Chris Boswell and a 54-yard field goal for Succop. The Steelers maintained the lead 10-9.

The second half did not fare much better for the Buccaneers. At the start of the third quarter, Simms returned the kickoff 89 yards down to the Tampa Bay 12-yard line. Pickett threw a quick 6-yard pass to Johnson and then an incomplete, to bring up 3rd and 4. Pickett overthrew Pickens in the endzone under double coverage of Dee Delaney and Winfield Jr.  They added on another 3 points with a 25-yard field goal. The Buccaneers answered with their own 24-yard field goal bringing the score to 13-12.

Critical Injuries 

There were critical injuries in the third quarter including Tampa Bay’s tight end Cameron Brate who went down after a 6-yard pass.  Brate, who missed last week while recovering from a concussion, was carted off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital for evaluation.

Pickett was also injured after taking a big hit by Devin White. He suffered a concussion requiring the Steelers to bring in backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

In the fourth quarter, Trubisky threw a short pass over the middle to Connor Heyward that turned into 45-yard play, as the tight end capitalized on blown coverage. He was finally taken down by Lavonte David at the 11-yard line. Two plays later and the Steelers were in the endzone with Trubisky’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Claypool.

The Buccaneers answered. Starting on their own 27-yard line, Brady threw several short passes to Fournette, Godwin, and Evans, before finding backup tight end Cade Otton for a 17-yard pass down the middle. Fournette’s 9-yard reception moved the Buccaneers to 2nd and 1 just outside the red zone.  Both White and Brady attempted to carry the ball with no gain, bringing up 4th and 1. Fournette lined up on the right end for the hand off. He carried the ball 7 yards for the first down.

Tampa Bay found themselves in another 4th and 1 this time at the 13-yard line. White’s 2-yard reception moved the chains. The Buccaneers scored their first and only touchdown on a short pass to Fournette who ran downfield and barreled into the endzone.

Brady attempted a 2-point conversion with a pass to Godwin. As Godwin crossed routes along the goal line, he attempted to split the coverage. Steelers linebacker Devin Bush jumped the route and knocked the ball down.  The game ended with Steelers possession running out the clock and a 20-18 loss for the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay is on the road again next week against division rival Carolina Panthers.

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