Tampa Bay’s offense fails in the red zone, and its defense gives up four 3rd down and long conversions in loss to Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Tampa Bay Bucs 20-18 on Sunday afternoon at Acrisure Stadium. The Bucs once again got off to a slow start, going three and out on their opening offensive possession, and then allowing an opening drive touchdown on the Steelers first possession. Mitch Trubisky came into the game after Steeler’s starting quarterback Kenny Pickett was injured and threw for 144 yards, one touchdown, and lead Pittsburgh on a game-sealing 4 minute 38 second drive to close out the Bucs.
The Buccaneer’s offense had four drives of 11+ plays on the day but converted only 1 of 4 chances in the red zone and were 0 for 2 in goal-to-goal situations. Tom Brady threw for 243 yards and one touchdown, but was pressured repeatedly, and sacked twice. Chris Godwin had six catches, on 12 targets, for 95 yards as the offense struggled to show any signs of continuity.
Leonard Fournette was the Bucs top offensive weapon on Sunday. He rushed for 63 yards and caught all six of his targets for 38 yards, and the team’s only touchdown. Mike Evans was doubled teamed most of the day but caught all four of his targets for 42 yards. Unfortunately, no other Buccaneer player had more than 23 total yards from scrimmage on the day.
The Tampa Bay defense may need to arrive to the stadium a bit earlier, as they gave up their third opening drive touchdown in six games. They also need to figure out how to stop teams on third down, as they allowed Pittsburgh to convert on 7 of 15 chances, with four of those conversions being 10 or more yards. On the final drive of the game, they allowed two of those long third down conversions, which is inexcusable considering the circumstances.
Lavonte David led the Bucs with 13 total tackles, and one tackle for loss. Antione Windfield Jr. had five total tackles, one sack, and two tackles for loss. Carl Nassib had the Bucs other sack, and Jamel Dean had five total tackles, with one of those coming on a touchdown saver on a kickoff return.
Kicker Ryan Succop made all four of his field goal attempts, including a 54 yarder right before the half. He is now 11 for 12 on field goals this season. Rookie Jake Camarda averaged 46.0 yards on five punts but was part of the kickoff team that allowed an 89-yard return to open the second half, which lead to a Steeler field goal in a game they won by two points.
The Steelers won this game because they played better than the Bucs in key situations. Pittsburgh converted on 46.7% of their third down opportunities, while the Bucs only converted on 28.6%. The Steelers scored two touchdowns on their three chances in the red zone, while the Bucs only scored one touchdown in four opportunities.
Coaching, and preparation, has a lot to do with how teams play in those key situations. The Buccaneer coaching staff must improve with how they are preparing this team to handle situational football. They are not winning on plays that matter the most, and it is one of the reasons they sit at 3 and 3 on the year.
The Bucs look to bounce back next week as they travel to North Carolina, to face the Panthers in an NFC South divisional game.