It had been over 200 days since the Pittsburgh Steelers set foot onto Heinz Field for a football game. That clock was reset on Friday night when the Steelers hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of NFL Preseason action. While this game lacked the star power of Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden and plenty others, it was enough to satiate the rabid Steelers fan base who have been craving football for months.
The Steelers started the game on defense, and the start was certainly forgettable. While the only starter actually playing for Pittsburgh was Terrell Edmunds, Jameis Winston orchestrated a 12-play drive ending in a touchdown to give the Buccaneers a quick 7-0 lead before Pittsburgh’s offense even touched the football.
Joshua Dobbs had the reigns of the Steelers’ offense to start the game, and announced his presence with authority after he hit James Washington for a 44-yard completion on the second offensive play of the game. However, a second down sack after the big play pushed the Steelers out of field goal range, and forced Jordan Berry on for the first punt of the game.
The Buccaneers’ second drive saw Blaine Gabbert behind center, and after a 3rd down roughing the passer call extended the drive, Tampa Bay went for a 4th-and-short in field goal range and failed. Devin Bush was all over the field throughout the first quarter, and was a main reason why the Steelers’ offense got the ball back in the second quarter down just 7-0, and not 10 or 14-0.
Starting their second drive in their own end, the Steelers needed James Washington to dig them out of a huge hole. On 3rd and 21, Dobbs hit Washington for a 22-yard pick up to get the yardage necessary to receive a new set of downs. After that play, Dobbs started using his feet to make plays, including a 36-yard run to move the offense into field goal range. They would have to settle for a Chris Boswell 33-yard field goal to get them on the board, but still trailing 7-3 with 6:58 left in the first half.
After the Steelers’ defense forced their first punt of the game, Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback with 5:33 left in the half and all three timeouts still remaining. It didn’t take the Steelers’ offense to take control and move the ball down the field. After big completions and a 22-yard run by Jaylen Samuels, the Steelers faced a 1st and goal from the 8-yard line. Following the 2-minute warning, Rudolph hit Washington for the 8-yard score.
Great throw.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019
Great catch. pic.twitter.com/0Zgz8h58Z1
Matthew Wright tacked on the extra point to make the score 10-7 Steelers in the waning minutes of the first half.
On the ensuing drive, Tyler Matakevich came on a blitz, and was able to get a strip sack, causing a fumble, and rookie Isaiah Buggs was at the right place at the right time to recover the fumble.
Matakevich will take that‼️ pic.twitter.com/2tdoov78ov— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019
Rudolph and the Steelers’ offense failed to gain positive yardage on the next possession, and had to settle for another Chris Boswell field goal, this one was a 47-yard kick to make the score 13-7 with 1:03 left in the first half.
The Buccaneers weren’t about to kneel out the remaining time left in the half, and it set up a 55-yard field goal attempt which was good as time ran out, making the score 13-10 Steelers heading into halftime.
Pittsburgh started the second half on offense, but Rudolph and company failed to register a first down before Ian Berryman punted the ball away for the first time of the game. Tampa Bay followed suit and had to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh. On the first play to start the next possession, Rudolph hit Johnny Holton for a 59-yard catch and run to take the ball inside the 10-yard line. On second down, Rudolph hit rookie Zach Gentry in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown pass of the game.
Zach Wright hit the extra point to make the score 20-10 with 9:25 left in the 3rd quarter.
Pittsburgh’s defense continued to improve as the game progressed, and when Pittsburgh got the football back again it was Devlin Hodges who took over at quarterback. However, Hodges’ luck wasn’t as good as the two previous quarterbacks and the football was punted back to the Buccaneers with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers found their groove towards the end of the quarter and were able to drive down the field and eventually punched the ball in for their second touchdown of the game. The Dare Ogunbowale 10-yard run led to a 2-point conversion try which failed, making the score 20-16 with 3:21 left in the third quarter.
Hodges started to find his groove towards the end of the quarter, and moved the Steelers offense into the red-zone as the third quarter came to an end. Two plays into the fourth quarter and Hodges found Tevin Jones in the end zone for the third Steelers touchdown of the game.
Devlin Hodges finds Tevin Jones for the score‼️ pic.twitter.com/sSNpHBK1fW— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019
Boswell added on the point after to make the score 27-16 with 14:15 left in regulation.
After exchanging possessions, Dionate Spencer was able to take a punt return deep into Tampa Bay territory, but Hodges and company failed to put another touchdown on the board. Instead, they settled for a Matthew Wright 42-yard field goal to make the score 30-16.
With 9:14 left in the game, the Buccaneers refused to just go off into the night. Instead, Ryan Griffin took the Tampa Bay offense down the field and put up another touchdown to add to the Tampa Bay total. Bruce Arians went for the two-point conversion, again, and failed, again, making the score 30-22 with 4:45 left in regulation.
After a Kevin Rader fumble, Tampa Bay had the chance to add more points to their total, and Griffin and the Bucs offense was able to drive down and score a touchdown. After Ogunbowale plunged in for a TD, Tampa Bay went for their third two-point conversion of the game, and failed once again to make the final score 30-28.
The Steelers’ preseason record moves to 1-0 on the season, and will host the Kansas City Chiefs next Saturday in Week 2 of NFL Preseason action. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold leading up to the next game on the schedule.