This is the third post in the series about the 2010 Steelers. The second, detailing the Titans game, can be found here, and the Atlanta game can be found here. The premise of this series is that as the season unfolded we saw what almost seemed like two teams, and we were never entirely sure which one was going to show up to any game, or even at any given moment in a game. We are going back through each game and looking for a play or a drive that illustrates both Steelers teams. So without further ado, here is:
Game 3 - @ Buccaneers Final Score: 38-13 Steelers
This game was a game of tipped passes - there were lots of them, with varying results. One of them was a 41 yard pass from Charlie Batch that Aqib Talib, the Bucs CB, tipped, sending it straight into the loving arms of Mike Wallace, who was conveniently standing in the end zone. A couple of Josh Freeman passes were batted down by Woodley and Ziggy Hood, and one was tipped by a Tampa Bay receiver, continued forward, and was caught by another Tampa Bay receiver. This was on third down, and the intended receiver would probably have not gotten quite the necessary yardage, as there were a couple of Steelers ready to take him down. Instead, it flies another 10 feet. Sometimes you just get lucky. Luckily for us, Bmac was there and took the receiver (rookie Arrelious Benn) down.
General game overview: The defense continued to play great, physical football. They only gave up 75 net rushing yards, and Brett Keisel had his first-ever NFL interception, which he then ran back for a touchdown (also his first in the NFL.) They gave up 223 net passing yards, but no passing touchdowns, and gave up one rushing touchdown in the final few minutes of the game. Special teams continued to keep things under control, although the Bucs were getting an average of over 20 yards per return. But the big news of the day was Charlie Batch, who strode onto the field and, with considerable assistance from the running backs, had a monster game. Although the Bucs put the first score on the board with a field goal from a Batch interception (he had two in the game) they never again sniffed the lead.
Injuries: It was a great injury week, with only Dixon and Trai Essex out for the game. Byron Leftwich was re-signed midweek and was in as backup QB, although how effective he would have been had he been necessary was a question that was exercising Steeler nation prior to the game. Starks and Hampton were both back for the game.
During the game, Ryan Clark left briefly, but returned later in the game and did not appear on the following week's injury report; neither did Will Allen, who was also tended on the field. Chris Hoke sprained his MCL in the last few minutes of the game. Once again players were rotated constantly because of the heat, but unlike the previous week there were no reports of dehydration and cramping.
Game 3 Notables:
• The temperature at kickoff was almost as hot as the previous week's game - 85 degrees at kickoff. However, as it was so humid, the heat index was almost 100 degrees. The Bucs also elected to wear their road whites, once again forcing the Steelers to wear their black uniforms. Not that they cared - between wearing their black-and-gold unis and the fact that the stands seemed to contain more Steeler fans than Bucs fans, it must have felt like home to the guys.
• Daniel Sepulveda was only called upon for one punt that day, and responded with a beautiful 62 yard punt that the Steelers downed at the 9.
• Hines Ward caught several passes (including a TD) for his 181st consecutive game in which he caught at least one pass.
• Charlie Batch's TDs were the 58th, 59th and 60th of his career. He had not started a game since 2007. He had career highs for rushing and a career high 3 TDs. He also had a career-long 24 yard run. No wussy QB slide this week, either - the Bucs had to tackle him. He had to take off after the play broke down, from a 4-wide set.
• The Steelers had last played in Raymond James Stadium when they won the Super Bowl there in 2008.
• Tampa Bay was 2-0 coming into the game, as were the Steelers.
• The Steelers were the only team in the league without a redzone conversion until Rashard ran in for a touchdown during the first quarter.
• LeGarrette Blount had his first NFL touchdown - the only TD of the game for Tampa Bay.
• Despite losing the time of possession battle, (26:54) and being even with Tampa Bay in turnovers, the Steelers dominated the game from about 6 minutes into it.
• My favorite quote of the week, from OLB James Harrison, on Brett Keisel's interception: "I didn’t know what happened till I heard the roar, and everybody starting running the other way, so I just hit somebody in a white jersey and looked up and Keisel was rumbling."
• My second-favorite quote of the week, from the ever-quotable Mike Tomlin: When asked if he wished he could go back and start Charlie Batch against Atlanta or Tennessee: "Man, I don’t get do overs. I don’t live in that world."
Unsung Heros of the Game, again: The guys holding up the sunshades so that the players on the sideline didn't have to sit in the sun...
Team Jeckyll Plays of the Week: There were so many to choose from, I scarcely knew where to start. It's a nice problem to have! Although I would love to feature Charlie Batch, I'm going to go with a run play, because the running game was just so stinking awesome. It was at 4:35 in the 3rd quarter , and the Bucs committed just about everybody to the line of scrimmage.
Hines Ward made a great block on the edge, and you can see the offensive line working in perfect unison to create a huge rushing lane. Doug Legursky and Flozell Adams have the upper hand on their two guys, while Maurkice Pouncey has the inside sealed off.
A poor and weak angle to the ball by No. 26 of the Bucs and it's off to the races for Mendenhall.
Cody Grimm, the Bucs safety (and son of former Steelers coach Russ Grimm), managed to shove Mendy out of bounds at the Steelers 14, thus preventing another TD. Since he got burned for the first Wallace TD catch, I guess he was trying to make amends. When Mendenhall was asked whether he thought he was going to bring it in for a TD, he said "I thought I was going to beat him out, but you learn from situations like that. If I could do it again I probably weak shoulder cut him, and take the rest of the field. Just use every opportunity to learn and grow and I plan on doing that."
The second Team Jeckyll Play of the Week is the Brett Keisel pick 6 at the very beginning of the 4th quarter. Harrison tackled the Bucs receiver just as he was reaching for the ball, which tipped off his hands. Keisel catches it, starts running, slows up a bit so he can get some blockers around him, and takes it for a 79 yard outing.
After the game he said "Last time I scored was when I was back in high school, so it feels great. I had a great convoy with great blocking. They might need to use me as a tight end a little bit."
This was the third Ben-free game, and both the running and the passing game came up big. Consequently, the Steelers were one of the few remaining teams with no losses at the end of the Week 3 games, joining the surprising Chiefs and the Bears. (There were five teams, conversely, with no wins - the Panthers, Bills, Browns, 49ers, and Lions.)
The Good from Game 3:
• Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders were still "competing for a hat," to use the Tomlinism, and Brown got the hat. He had 3 kick returns, the longest 25 yards, and tackled the kick returner during a first quarter return.
• The Steelers sacked the Tampa Bay QB 4 times (Freeman 3 times, Johnson once.) The sacks were mostly not by the usual suspects - Timmons, Gay, Eason, and Worilds each got one.
• The running game was on fire, with generally excellent run blocking and great effort from Mendenhall, who had 143 yards on 19 attempts. Isaac Redman also had some nice runs, with a long of 16 yards.
• 201 net rushing yards! 6.3 average gain per attempt! A rushing TD! Art II must have been beside himself with joy, and he certainly wasn't the only one.
• Unlike the previous week, Jeff Reed's leg did not produce most of the points - he attempted, and made, one field goal, and made all the extra points, for another perfect week.
• I thought that the clock management at the end of the second quarter was excellent, something that isn't always a strength, shall we say.
• Charlie Batch passed for 186 yards and completed 12 of 17 attempts for a QB rating of 106.5. At the end of the second quarter he had a 128.6 QB rating. Nice.
• The redzone conversion rate was 2 of 3 for 66%, an enormous relief after being 0 for 6 at that point. The Bucs were 1 for 3.
• Troy Polamalu had an "interception" when he wasn't even on the field - he was standing on the sidelines, helmetless, and pulled in a Josh Freeman pass thrown out of bounds.
Team Hyde Play of the Week: Since I set up the rule that eliminates plays that one can fault the QB for during the first four Ben-less weeks, it was hard to find something to pick on, since the two interceptions can't really be blamed on the intended receivers in those plays. So I guess I'm going to go with the little trick play at 8:46 in the 1st quarter. ARE lines up at QB, takes the snap, and hands off to Antonio Brown, who is running in front of him. Brown continues running right and hands it to Mike Wallace, who is running left. Wallace gets taken down behind the line of scrimmage for a 1 yard loss. Somehow, those sorts of plays seldom seem to work out for us. Hines Ward got a lateral from Batch in the third quarter, and he lost 2 yards.
The Bad and the Ugly from Game 2:
• The two interceptions turned into 10 points for the Bucs - almost the only points they managed.
• The kerfuffle that occurred at about 5:45 in the first quarter, at the end of a nice run by LaGarrett Blount, in which he got 12 yards while dragging Troy with him for about 5 of them. One of the rookie WRs for the Bucs threw a block by shoving Ryan Clark, and apparently he enjoyed it so much that he kept hitting and shoving Clark until he was out of bounds. Blount was already tackled by the time he started "blocking," and there was nary a flag from the officials. The commentators discussed approvingly the training in blocking that the Bucs coach gave his WRs. Am I missing something? Luckily, karma's a bitch, and the receiver who lost the pass that Brett Keisel took to the house was this very same #18...
• The Special Teams scrum partway through the 3rd quarter that garnered Ike Taylor an Unnecessary Roughness penalty.
• The short passes from the Tampa Bay QBs were generally successful, particularly up the middle. It worked out just fine in this game, obviously, but was an ominous sign of things to come, when we would be dealing with more experienced QBs.
• The turnovers were even - 2 PIT interceptions for 1 TB interception and 1 forced fumble/recovery (Ryan Clark.) That was a big comedown after the previous week's +6...
• Because of the rotation of the defensive players to keep them from wearing down in the heat, Keyaron Fox saw a fair bit of playing time outside of special teams, which gave him a greater range for collecting personal fouls.
Good or Bad in this game, according to taste:
• Ike "Stone Hands" Taylor dropped an interception about halfway through the first quarter. On the other hand, it was because of his awesome coverage that he was in position for it, rather than the intended receiver.
With some help from the defense, who were stout against some really strong runners and provided a touchdown of their own, the offense won this game. Since the final game of the Roethlisberger suspension the next week was against the Ravens, who already had one loss, 3-0 was a great place to be.