The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered Week 3 under very different circumstances. Tampa Bay was red-hot coming in with a 2-0 record, and the Steelers had yet to crack the win column after starting with an 0-1-1 record.
All that aside, this matchup had the look of a shootout in its purest form. Ryan Fitzpatrick had been the NFC’s best quarterback through the early portion of the season, and Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense were no slouch either.
When the game got underway, it was Pittsburgh receiving the opening kickoff, and a three-and-out was what ensued after a special team penalty pushed them back on the opening kickoff. After another mediocre Jordan Berry punt, the Steelers’ defense stood tall and forced a three-and-out of their own on the Buccaneers’ first possession of the game.
On the second Pittsburgh possession it was Tampa Bay who drew first blood when Justin Evans stepped in front of a Roethlisberger pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster and gave the Buccaneers tremendous field position after the interception. With the ball on the Pittsburgh 46-yard line, it took just four plays for Fitzpatrick to find Cameron Brate for a 4-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay an early 7-0 lead.
With a chance to answer, on third-and-10 Roethlisberger found a wide open Vance McDonald who stiff-armed Chris Conte into next week on his way to a 75-yard touchdown.
Don't make him angry.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 25, 2018
You won't like him when he's angry. pic.twitter.com/e3WBR7oAss
However, Chris Boswell’s kicking woes continued with a missed point-after, his second in the past two weeks, and the score was 7-6 midway through the first quarter.
After Tampa Bay threatened to add to their lead, an Anthony Chickillo sack on third down pushed them out of field goal range and forced a punt. The Steelers turned the possession into a Boswell field goal, his first of the season, giving Pittsburgh a 9-7 lead.
The Buccaneers’ next possession ended quickly when Fitzpatrick completed a pass to C.J. Godwin, but Artie Burns jarred the ball loose and it was recovered by Mike Hilton for the first Pittsburgh turnover of the game.
So... we need to update you on some stuff...— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 25, 2018
This happened. pic.twitter.com/24kT8CRMWe
Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on a quick slant, and after making a defender miss Brown was off to the races for the score.
Boswell tacked on the extra point to give the Steelers a 16-7 lead.
For the second straight possession, Ryan Fitzpatrick had the Buccaneers in scoring position, but a Jon Bostic tipped pass turned into a Mike Hilton interception, denying Tampa Bay of points again.
Pittsburgh failed to turn the turnover into points, but on the next Tampa Bay drive Fitzpatrick was picked off again, this time by rookie safety Terrell Edmunds.
First interception alert pic.twitter.com/YRcWSrpuTx— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 25, 2018
For the second straight possession, the Steelers failed to convert the turnover into points, giving the ball back to the Bucs.
What happened next was Fitzpatrick’s third straight interception, this time to Bud Dupree and Dupree walked into the endzone for the Steelers’ touchdown.
The Boswell point-after made the score 23-7 with 2:50 left to go in the first half.
The Buccaneers weren’t going to just roll over and die, and a big pass play from Fitzpatrick to Mike Evans moved the Tampa Bay offense inside the 10-yard line. However, the Steelers’ defense held strong and forced a 21-yard field goal attempt to make the score 23-10 with 1:15 left in the half.
Just a little Switzmagic. pic.twitter.com/YNRMolTBJ8— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 25, 2018
Boswell made the extra point, giving the Steelers a 30-10 lead heading into halftime.
The Buccaneers started the second half with the football, and despite driving down into the red-zone, and facing a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, they came away with only three points. The field goal made the score 30-13 with just over 7-minutes remaining in the third quarter.
After a lengthy drive of their own ended in another Chris Boswell missed field goal, Fitzpatrick and the Bucs’ offense continued to pass their way back into the game. The next Tampa Bay drive took up a lot of time, but ended in a C.J. Godwin touchdown reception to make the score 30-20 with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers’ failed to put up any points since the second quarter, and Tampa Bay came storming back into the game when Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Mike Evans with just over 5-minutes left in the game to narrow the lead to 3-points, 30-27.
James Conner came alive on the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, and on 3rd and 9 from the 36-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Antonio Brown and the Steelers were forced to punt the ball away with 3:22 left in the game, putting the pressure on a defense which has provided little resistance in the second half.
Pittsburgh forced a punt with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter, and on 2nd down Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Shuster for a huge first down. On the next play from scrimmage James Conner rumbled for a first down, icing the game away.
The win gives the Steelers their first win of the season, and moves their record to 1-1-1 heading into a Week 4 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football at Heinz Field.
Be sure to stay locked to BTSC for all the best Steelers coverage leading up to the huge AFC North grudge match next Sunday.