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Memory Lane: A Black and Gold look at the history of Steelers vs. Buccaneers

How have the Steelers fared against the Buccaneers and why are we craving Creamsicles?

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As the Steelers prepare to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday in the first preseason game it feels like an appropriate time to take a look at some of the series history. Since the 2002 NFL realignment, the teams meet in the regular season only once every four years. The Steelers own a 10-2 mark since the series began, winning 6 of the last 7. The lone Tampa Bay win during that stretch came in 2018.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers’ most recent matchup

The most recent meeting between the Steelers and Bucs happened in the 2022 season and saw the Steelers victorious by a 20-18 score. That game was notable for a handful of reasons.

Tom Brady was the Buccaneers' starting quarterback that day, and unless he comes out of retirement again, it will be the last of his matchups against the Steelers. Given that the legendary quarterback was very successful against Pittsburgh in his career, it was quite satisfying for Steeler fans to witness the victory against him in that final meeting. QB Kenny Pickett would leave that October game halfway through the third quarter with a concussion and be replaced by Mitch Trubisky. Pickett and Trubisky would combine for a passer rating of 109.1, besting Brady’s 87.8.

Yes, it was the game that Pickett and Trubisky outplayed TB12! Part of that 109.1 passer rating was, in part, due to the Steelers’ quarterbacks combining to throw for two touchdown passes that night. (In fact, sadly, it was the only 2022 game in which the Steelers would throw more than one TD.)

Brady threw for a touchdown with 4:38 to play but was unsuccessful on a potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt. The Steelers ran out the entire 4:38 off of the clock and keep Brady on the sidelines until the postgame handshakes.

The first-ever matchup of Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh

The Buccaneers were an expansion team for the 1976 season and lost all 14 games that year, including a December 42-0 beatdown at the hands of the Steelers. Tampa Bay would go on to lose their first 12 games of the 1977 campaign as well. With the weight of so many losses on his shoulders, head coach John McKay was once asked “What do you think of your team’s execution, coach?” His reply: “I’m in favor of it.” This is just one of many famous McKay quotes.

A decade into existence the Buccaneers’ fortunes could have turned as they acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young in the 1986 Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL players. After two seasons as a starter, going 3-16, Young was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round and fourth-round pick. Say “goodbye’ to altering the course of a franchise and ‘hello’ to more irrelevancy. The first decades of the franchise were known almost solely for constant losing and for the Creamsicle orange uniforms. Aside from a strike-shortened 5-4 1983 season, it wasn’t until the 1999-2000 seasons that the franchise posted back-to-back winning records.

This newly legitimate franchise would go on to win a Super Bowl after the 2002 season with Jon Gruden as head coach. Continued success would elude Tampa Bay as they only posted five winning seasons in the next 17 years. Things would change in a big way in 2020 when they signed Tom Brady to play quarterback and a team that had finished 7-9 the season before would go on to win Super Bowl LV. Brady would retire after the 2022 season bringing Tampa Bay back to a familiar world of uncertainty.

Steeler-Buccaneer connections

No Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay history lesson would be complete without mentioning that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin got his first NFL job when, in 2001, Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy hired him as a defensive backs coach. As a player, Dungy recorded nine interceptions in two seasons as a Steeler along with earning a Superbowl ring after the 1978 season.

Other links between the organizations are the players who have worn both helmets in their careers. As the Steelers have traditionally not been big players in free agency, the list of Black and Gold success stories who first played in Tampa Bay is a bit short. DT Ray Seals, WR Courtney Hawkins, and S Will Allen each had over 20 starts as a Steeler.

Those that have played for Tampa Bay after the Steelers include WR Theo Bell, LB Hardy Nickerson, DT Steve McClendon, CB Ross Cockrell, and WR Antonio Bryant. Also, former Steeler standout Le’Veon Bell played the final three games of his career as a Buccaneer in 2021.

The Steelers-Buccaneers series started almost five decades ago with colorful uniforms and quotes. Its most recent matchup had a surprising quarterback . Where does it go next?

A BTSC preview of Friday’s 7 p.m. ET preseason meeting is just around the corner!