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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been much-maligned all season, and it was no better against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.
The Steelers allowed a five-play, 46-yard drive in just 33 seconds to give Tampa Bay a 27-24 win. The key play was a 41-yard pass from Bucs backup quarterback Mike Glennon to Vincent Jackson with William Gay in the vicinity.
The Steelers defense actually stopped the Bucs on four downs a short time earlier, but the club's offense went three-and-out and Brad Wing punted for only 29 yards to near midfield to give Tampa another chance. They cashed in with a game-winning touchdown.
The Steelers couldn't have gotten off to a slower start against the Buccaneers and trailed 10-0 after five minutes into the first quarter. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice and fumbled away the opening possession, and Tampa Bay needed just two plays to score from the 9.
Backup quarterback Mike Glennon hit rookie wideout Mike Evans for the scoring pass from seven yards out. Cortez Allen had decent coverage, but Evans got to the corner and made a nice catch on a perfectly thrown pass.
The Steelers attempted to run the ball during their second possession and were stuffed by the Bucs. Brad Wing's punt was returned 25 yards, so Tampa Bay had good field position again. They weren't in Steelers territory, but good enough. This time, the Bucs needed just six plays and 1:24 to score. Cam Thomas had a 15-yard facemask that was unnecessary to allow the Bucs to get near field-goal range. Rookie Patrick Murray made the Steelers pay with a 50-yard field goal.
The Steelers finally moved the ball on their third possession, and they did it through the air. After rare drops by Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, Roethilsberger hit Markus Wheaton for 31 yards into Tampa territory and tacked on 14 more with a sideline toss to Wheaton.
A 19-yard pass to Antonio Brown set up the Steelers for a first-and-goal from the 9. After consecutive one-yard plays, Roethlisberger hits Justin Brown in the end zone. He drops it and proves again that he shouldn't even be on the 53-man roster let alone active for the game. Suisham kicked a 25-yard field goal to get the Steelers on the board.
The Steelers defense finally stiffened on Tampa's next series, and that gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. Bell powered through the line four times for 37 yards, but a taunting penalty negated quite a bit of the progress. Roethlisberger went back to the air and found Antonio Brown for 27 to the 8.
After a five-yard pass to Justin Brown, David DeCastro's false start negated that. Bell lost three on a short pass, and it was third down and goal from the 11. That didn't matter to Roethlisberger, who found Antonio Brown open for the score. Suisham's PAT tied the score at 10-10 with 15 seconds left in the first.
In the second quarter, the Steelers got a sack from Cam Heyward to force a punt that Tampa downed at the 7. That did not deter Roethlisberger and the offense, as the Steelers drove 93 yards in 13 plays and 7:35. Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown open for a spectacular 27-yard touchdown reception.
Keeping the drive alive was not easy, as Roethlisberger was sacked twice. But strong running from LeGarrette Blount in the beginning, a 14-yard connection with Wheaton and solid running from Bell, who ran for two first downs, keyed the drive. The Steelers also got a 12-yard reception from Lance Moore, his first catch with his new club.
The third quarter didn't start so well for the Steelers, as Tampa Bay drove 80 yards in eight plays and 2:33 to tie the score at 17-17. Glennon made two big passes, a 19-yarder to Vincent Jackson on third-and-long and 40-yarder to Evans where the receiver made a great catch on the sideline. Cortez Allen was beaten for the first down, and William Gay for the long pass to the 3.
Doug Martin ran it in from there, but a clear holding penalty on Sean Spence was not called. Spence had pursuit on the play. To add insult to injury, so to speak, Heyward was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play. All that did, however, was solidify the chances for a kickoff into the end zone.
Fortunately for the Steelers, they came right back with a 10-play, 80-yard drive in 4:37. There were several big plays with the majority going to tight end Heath Miller, who hauled in the five-yard scoring pass from Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown also caught a 16-yard pass and threw one off a backward lateral from Roethlisberger that Bell caught for a 17-yard gain.
Miller had a 16-yard catch, one for 11 yards and also added a nine-yard scoring reception that was called back due to offsetting penalties. His actual score came on third-and-goal to give the Steelers a 24-17 lead.
Murray added a 27-yard field goal for Tampa Bay to get close, 24-20.