The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers took part in a prime time affair at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL on Monday night, and the Steelers presented their loyal fan base with their first victory of the season. The 30-27 was the tale of two halves, yet there were some good, and bad, performances worthy of recognition.
During the game, some perform well, while others fall short of the standard. This is where the Winners and Losers column comes in. After the game, when the dust settles, we decipher who falls into which category.
As always, feel free to comment on the list in the comment section below. Be part of the conversation!
Stat Line: 30/38, 353 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 3 sacks
With no Le’Veon Bell, this is Ben Roethlisberger’s season. In other words, games are going to be on his shoulders every week. So far, if he gets just a little help from his defense the Steelers have a good chance to win. Can he keep it up for 16 games? That has yet to be seen, but he sure did put on a tremendous first half performance on Monday night. The drive to end the first half was a thing of beauty, and the pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster was vintage Roethlisberger. As Roethlisberger lives and dies by the big play, it seems as if the 2018 Steelers might just live and die by Roethlisberger’s play.
Stat Line: 9 receptions, 11 targets, 116 yards, 43-yard long
Call it getting one-on-one matchups because of Antonio Brown, but I call it the start of a budding superstar career. Everyone wondered if Smith-Schuster could duplicate his rookie success, and he has gone over 100 yards receiving in the first three games of the regular season. Many wondered if Smith-Schuster could produce in Martavis Bryant’s absence. At this point, I’m saying, “Martavis, who?” If you haven’t yet, go get yourself a No. 19 jersey...this kid will be here for a while.
Stat Line: 4 receptions, 5 targets, 112 yards, 1 touchdown
So the stiff-arm was legendary, but what I saw throughout that play is why McDonald is the TE1 on this team. Jesse James is having a great season, and deserves a lot of credit, but he doesn’t have the breakaway speed, or athleticism of McDonald. If McDonald can stay healthy this offense just gained a very big weapon, both figuratively and literally.
Stat Line: 15 carries, 61 yards / 5 receptions, 34 yards
His statistics weren’t out of this world, but in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, when the Steelers needed a drive, it was Conner who was patient and found running lanes. Would I love to see the Steelers run the ball more? Absolutely, but on a night when the team didn’t have the starting right side of their offensive line, Conner came through when it mattered most. It isn’t always about quantity, but quality.
Stat Line: TB Red-Zone - 2-5 / 4 turnovers
A huge shout out to the Steelers’ defense. The team hadn’t had a red-zone stop in the regular season, but not only had 3 vs. the Buccaneers, but created some turnovers as well. It was great to see 3 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery for this defense, and although Pittsburgh only turned one turnover into points, the 4 takeaways, and 1 giveaway, move the Steelers closer to even for the season with a -1 give away/take away ratio.
Stat Line: 2 receptions, 25 yards
Similar to what was said about James Conner, sometimes it isn’t about how many catches you have, but when you make those receptions. Washington only finished with two receptions, and both were huge first down conversions. The rookie is making plays, and Roethlisberger is starting to trust him more and more when it matters most. This is just the beginning for Washington, if you ask me.
Stat Line: HUGE win
Fans of the Steelers love to blame the head coach for losses, and while it is part of the job it should be noted when the coach provides a huge win for his team on prime time when they desperately needed it. Was it perfect? Far from it. Were there stupid penalties all along the way? Yes. Does work still need to be done? No doubt about it. But what also should be recognized is the Steelers won a big game against an undefeated team and have righted the ship for now. Next up — the Ravens.
Stat Line: FGs: 1-for-2 / PATs: 3-for-4
I feel confident in saying if the Steelers hadn’t given Boswell a new contract just prior to the regular season they would be hosting a few kickers this week. If nothing more than to motivate Boswell. However, Boswell is their kicker for now, and they need to get his head right before he misses more critical kicks.
Stat Line: 3 sacks, 9 QB hits
In my opinion, this stat line doesn’t truly show how the Buccaneers’ pass rush lived in the Steelers’ backfield almost every pass attempt. I hesitated to put them on the list considering B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler started on the right side of the line, but the standard is the standard, right? Throw in Alejandro Villanueva continuing to struggle at left tackle and Roethlisberger was under duress all night. If it weren’t for some big plays on his part this stat line could have looked a lot worse. Offensive line needs to stabilize, and it starts with getting David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert back.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 3-for-11
The Steelers’ third down offense has been rough all season, and it continued vs. Tampa Bay Monday night. Going 3-for-11 is horrendous, but it is also when they are going three-and-out which hurts. To start the game and to start the halves have become regular occurrences with the Steelers’ offense, and there is truly no reason why with the firepower they possess. This falls on the offensive coordinator and quarterback when it comes to putting together a better plan to start the game, and half, but also to have better option on these key downs.
Stat Line: Combine 22 accepted penalties for both teams (13 - PIT / 9 - TB)
I’m sick of putting officials into this article, but they aren’t helping themselves. This wasn’t just about discipline, but was about just bad calls across the board. The four roughing the passer calls were just the tip of the iceberg in this contest. Mr. Goodell, please fix this aspect of the game before it becomes too much to watch.