The Steelers open their preseason schedule at 7 p.m. Friday on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fans will finally get to witness the efforts of the Steelers’ scouting department through free agency and the draft, and that of the coaches and players through OTAs and training camp.
While Steeler fans have kept up with the ongoings in Latrobe, there’s probably been little effort to learn what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been up to since we last saw them.
Big changes for the Buccaneers
The last time the Steelers played Tampa Bay was this past October at Acrisure Stadium with a 20-18 victory for the Black and Gold as the result. Since then many things have changed in Tampa Bay, most notably the retirement Tom Brady. As a result of Brady’s departure, the biggest story out of Buccaneers training camp is the battle going on between veteran Baker Mayfield and 3rd-year QB Kyle Trask. Trask has been in the NFL for two seasons but has thrown only nine passes.
For those who might think it’s a slam dunk to hand Baker the quarterback job, new offensive coordinator David Canales has been impressed with Trask. Mayfield will start Friday against the Steelers while Trask will start Tampa Bay’s second preseason game against the Jets. To further exemplify how undecided the job is, the Buccaneer’s first depth chart lists the starter as “Baker Mayfield-OR-Kyle Trask.”
The other skill position players remain from last season but the offensive line is a different story. There are two new starters projected and no offensive lineman will play the same position as last year. Center Ryan Jensen will return after missing the 2022 season with an injury. Rookie Cody Mauch will take the right guard position and former Steeler Matt Feiler was signed in free agency to play left guard. The only starters to play last year are moving to new positions. Tristan Wirfs goes from right tackle to left tackle and Luke Goedeke from left guard to right tackle.
Other notable changes for the Buccaneers this year include the new offensive coordinator. After the firing of Byron Leftwich Tampa Bay hired Seattle quarterback coach Dave Canales who oversaw Geno Smith’s career resurrection last season.
As the offense adjusts to a new OC and new quarterback plus a reshuffled offensive line, the defense remains more intact. The biggest losses were defensive tackle Akeem Hicks and safety Mark Edwards. For those wishing the Steelers had drafted a couple of Pitt Panthers this year, 5th-round pick LB SirVocea Dennis should be on the field for the Buccaneers. Let’s hope a firm handshake is the most contact he has with his old college teammate Kenny Pickett. Unfortunately, 1st-round pick DL Calijah Kancey suffered a knee injury and may not be ready to play until the regular season.
Family reunion notes
In addition to Feiler playing against his first team, newly acquired Steelers linebacker Kwon Alexander will have a homecoming of sorts as he started his career in Tampa Bay in 2015 and earned a Pro Bowl nod there in 2017. Former linebacker and two-time Steelers Super Bowl champ Larry Foote became the Buccaneers’ linebacker coach in 2019 and added a third Super Bowl ring after the 2020 season. In 2022 Foote was promoted to co-defensive coordinator.
Now that we know more about our opponent, let's get 2023 started!