It’s Week 3, but it’s safe to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are at a crossroads. Sitting on a pitiful 0-1-1 record, the boys from the ‘burgh head to Tampa to play the red-hot and undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.
To suggest this is a must-win game, although it might feel like one, is hardly the reality. There are simply too many games left and, as the rest of the Week-3 slate of games proved, anything can happen in the NFL on any given weekend.
But if there was such a thing as a game which felt like a must-win, even this early in the season, it would be this prime-time affair in Florida.
This matchup certainly has a lot of facets to it — none more glaring than the Buccaneers’ offense, driven by Ryan Fitzpatrick, going against a Steelers’ defense who, last time they took the field, resembled a sieve more than a respectable, NFL defense.
Then you look on the other side of things and you see a Steelers’ offense which has put up enough points to win in both of their first two games, but were only let down by the aforementioned defense. Could there still be improvement in this area? Absolutely, but can you blame an offense that puts up 21 and 37 points but has yet to win a game?
While getting off to a good start will be key to the success of the Steelers, putting together a 4-quarter performance is something which hasn’t happened in a long time for Mike Tomlin’s crew.
As bad as the Steelers have been during the first two weeks, I often think about Mike Tomlin as a baseball player. When you watch baseball games, they often show the hitter’s ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ spots on the strike zone. A player who hits low and inside pitches well would show bright red in that area. However, the low and outside pitches might give him fits, so that area would be dark blue. With Tomlin, the road game against a lesser opponent would be the dark blue, but the prime-time game with the team’s back against the wall would be bright red.
Given that the Steelers’ offense is playing well and going against a not-so-good defense in Tampa Bay, I find it hard to believe the Pittsburgh defense will duplicate their Week-2 performance in prime time. Not that they’ll shut down Fitzpatrick and company, but put forth a better showing.
In other words, I’m not in the camp suggesting the Steelers get crushed in this game. No, I see this game going down to the wire and I’ll leave it to another player who’s had a rough start to the 2018 regular season to win the game. I think the Steelers win in the final seconds thanks to a Chris Boswell field goal.
The win would move their record to 1-1-1 and put them right back into the thick of things in the crowded AFC.
Steelers - 38
Buccaneers - 35