IT’S TIME TO STEAL A WIN IN STEELER COUNTRY!
This Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road to play the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 12th time in franchise history. The Steelers are 9-2 in their previous meetings. The last time the Bucs beat them was back in 2014 at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh had won four straight matchups before that and they won the last meeting between these two in 2018 in Tampa.
Things are different now. The times have changed. The teams have changed. The players hae changed. And the franchises have changed. Their roles have flip flopped. Before, the Steelers were always one of the best teams in the NFL and the Bucs were always the ones struggling to win. Now the Bucs are the ones winning and this Steelers team is struggling to find themselves. So let’s take a deeper look into this Week 6 matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh is 1-4 and riding a four game losing streak after winning in overtime in Week 1. They have been a team looking for answers. Their QB carousel continues. They went from Mason Rudolph to Mitch Trubisky to start the season and now have handed the reigns to rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. They are 28th in total offense and 30th in total defense. That’s never a good combination. They’re averaging right at 15 points per game on offense and giving up just over 25 points per game on defense. And things are going from bad to worse for them, especially on defense. They’ve been getting hit hard by injuries and have now lost their best defensive player TJ Watt for a while with a torn pectoral muscle, but now their secondary is also getting ravaged. They could end up having a difficult time with this Bucs offense that’s now getting healthier and starting to roll again.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Najee Harris
He has only totaled 222 rushing yards and a touchdown through the first 5 games, but the Bucs defense hasn’t exactly been too stout against the run lately. Harris is only averaging 44 yards per game, but the Bucs have allowed 150+ yards rushing in consecutive games for the first time since 2017.
OLB Alex Highsmith
He leads the Steelers with 5.5 sacks this season and he’ll be lined up against Donovan Smith in this game. Smith is coming off of arguably his best game of the season and he’ll need to have another good one to keep Highsmith from teeing off on Tom Brady’s blindside.
The Bucs are 3-2 coming off of their less-than-impressive win against the Atlanta Falcons last week. They’re finally getting healthy on offense, but now the defense has players dropping like flies. They come into this game ranked 20th in total offense averaging just 338 total yards and 21 points per game. That’s not what we expected from this offense before the season started. On the flip side, they’re ranked 6th in total defense allowing just 309 total yards and 16 points per game.
RB Rachaad White
He had a really impressive game last week catching the ball out of the backfield and pass blocking. If the Bucs get up big, he could end up getting more opportunities to run the ball in this game as well.
OLB Shaq Barrett
He is tied for 3rd on the team in sacks right now (2) behind Devin White (3) and Vita Vea (2.5). He’s been getting the pressures and the QB hits, in fact he’s one of the league leaders in those categories, but he just hasn’t gotten home. I think he’s due for a big multi-sack game.
1. Mike Evans vs James Pierre
The Steelers top three cornerbacks AND their top safety are all out for this game. That leaves their fourth CB Pierre as the guy responsible for covering Evans. It’s going to be a long day for him.
2. Donovan Smith vs Alex Highsmith
This is going to be a battle in the trenches. Smith is healthy again after his elbow injury and Highsmith is averaging over a sack a game. Two of the best at their positions going head-to-head. Gotta love it!
3. Luke Goedeke vs Cameron Heyward
It seems like every week so far this season Goedeke has lined up across from one of the best interior rushers in the game. He doesn’t get a break this week either. Heyward only has one sack this season, but he’s a disruptive force that the rookie will need to keep under control.
The Bucs have three players officially ruled “OUT” for this game and they are all on the defensive side of the ball. Akiem Hicks (foot), Logan Ryan (foot) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) will not play. The only other players listed on their final injury report are Julio Jones (knee) who is “DOUBTFUL” and Mike Edwards (elbow) who is “QUESTIONABLE“. Cam Brate appears to have cleared the concussion protocol and will play. And Carlton Davis (hip) is also ready to go. Other than Jones, who will probably be a gametime decision, the Bucs will have their full wide receiver corps going against an extremely injury depleted Steelers secondary.
Pittsburgh was already missing a key piece on defense in TJ Watt (they’re 0-8 WITHOUT Watt), but now they’ve been hit hard in the secondary. Their top three cornerbacks have been officially ruled “OUT” for this game including Cameron Sutton (hamstring), Levi Wallace (concussion) and Akhello Witherspoon (hamstring). Star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) is also “OUT“. Defensive end DeMarvin Leal (knee) and TE Pat Freiermuth (concussion) are also “OUT“. Other than that, nobody else is listed on their final injury report.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. STOP THE RUN!
In the last two weeks, the Bucs defense has allowed 150+ rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2017 AND the first time under Todd Bowles. They need to get back to controlling the line of scrimmage on defense.
2. MOVE THE CHAINS!
Late in the third quarter last week, the Bucs offense went three & out three straight possessions, which put the defense on the field a bunch. They eventually got worn down and allowed Atlanta to score 15 points in the fourth quarter. The Bucs offense has got to start converting on third down and extending drives, not only to put more points on the board, but to give the defense more time to rest.
3. OWN THE REDZONE!
The redzone has been a dead zone for the Bucs offense this season. They have not had their usual success scoring inside the 20-yard line in their first 5 games. They need to start turning their redzone trips into touchdowns and stop settling for field goals.
ODDS & ENDS
Bucs -8.5 & Over/Under 43 points
If this game doesn’t end up to be an absolute massacre by the Buccaneers, then I don’t think it’ll happen in any game this season. With all the injuries on Pittsburgh’s defense, they should be able to score at will on Sunday. If not, then something is truly wrong and whatever it is needs to be addressed. However, I think it is a blowout for the Bucs where even the defense contributes to the scoreboard with a defensive touchdown. Bucs win.
Bucs 41 Steelers 13
THE WRAP UP
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a big win. One that gets Bucs fans excited and optimistic again. Because right now, we’re all a little sketched out with the way the team’s playing. Especially these last few weeks. We need to see this team play well on BOTH sides of the ball for a full four quarters, even if it is at the expense of an injury ravaged Steelers team with a rookie quarterback. Speaking of which, Tom Brady is 12-0 versus rookie QB’s since 2014, so I don’t think he plans on ruining that streak. At least not this Sunday.
Well now that you know all you need to know about the Bucs Week 6 matchup with the Steelers, there’s only one thing left to say.