James Conner definitely did not have a record-setting game rushing the ball. His final stat line was 61 yards on 15 carries. But when it mattered, he came through in a big way.
In the final two drives of the game, Conner had 49 yards on 5 carries. One of those carries was a 4-yard loss on a strange sequence where Ben Roethlisberger changed the play at the line and then almost missed the handoff. The play put the Steelers behind the sticks and helped kill the drive.
The most important run of the night was the 17 yard rush right before the two-minute warning to put the team in victory formation. There was no secret as to what the Steelers were going to do as they lined up with their jumbo package in an obvious running formation. But Conner managed to break free while staying inbounds for a game-clinching play.
Yes, Vance McDonald had a nice 75-yard touchdown catch and run which included a posterizing stiff arm. But that wasn’t the most impressive 75 yards of the night.
The 9 play, 75-yard touchdown drive in 1:09 to end the first half was a thing of beauty. On the drive, Ben Roethlisberger was 8/9 for 74 yards to five different receivers. The only other yard on the drive was the one yard penalty for pass interference. It was arguably the most important possession of the game for the Steelers as they were answering a Tampa Bay field goal knowing the Bucs would received the second-half kickoff.
The total number of penalties in this game was ridiculous. I understand the penalties the first week, and perhaps even the second, but things should be much more cleaned up by week three. Of those 22 penalties for 235 yards, 155 yards on 13 flags were attributed to the Steelers.
Needless to say, the penalties on the Steelers are ridiculous. Something needs to improve as the season continues. But the total number of penalties and yards for this primetime game is something the league cannot afford to continue. The massive number of penalties makes for an inferior product to showcase on a Monday night.
The Steelers did not score in the second half of this game. A big reason for this was they only had one possession in the third quarter. On said possession, the Steelers moved the ball 46 yards on 11 plays enroute to a 47-yard missed field goal attempt.
The biggest reason the Steelers only had one possession in the third quarter was the opening drive of the half for Tampa which took 7:53. It was actually a nice job by the defense to keep the Bucs out of the end zone after being on the field for so long.
For the first time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger has passed for more than 300 yards in each of the first three weeks of the season. Ben has a total of 1140 yards which averages to 380 per game. The closest Ben has ever come to this total in his career was 2011 when he passed for 942 yards (314 per game) the opening three weeks, leading the Steelers to a 2–1 record.
Before this season, Roethlisberger’s record for consecutive 300 yard games to start a season was in 2015 when he passed for 300+ the first two weeks. Unfortunately the streak came to an end during a week-three win in St. Louis when Ben left in the third quarter with a knee injury which kept him out of the next three games.
Roethlisberger’s longest streak of consecutive games throwing for 300 yards or more during the same season is four games in 2015 (weeks 9-12). Ben will get a chance to tie that record next week at home against the Ravens on Sunday night.