Thanks to a 2-0 start, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs are riding high and now they get to show everyone that they are for real when they play the Steelers on Monday Night Football.
Both teams are similar in the fact that they are the top two offenses in the league, but they also are in the bottom seven on defense.
There will be matchups galore to watch in this game and it could be another offensive shootout like we saw in Week 1 against the Saints.
- All-time series record: Pittsburgh leads the series with 8-2 record against the Bucs. However, Tampa Bay won the most recent meeting, 27-24 in 2014. The Bucs are 1-5 at home and 1-3 on the road against the Steelers.
- Longest win streak: The Steelers won four in a row from 1976-1989 and from 2001-2010.
- Largest victory: Like every other team, Pittsburgh trounced the Bucs 42-0 in their 1976 inaugural season.
- 2018 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay owns the league’s best offense (1st pass, 27th run) and the 27th ranked defense (31st pass, 2nd run). The Steelers aren’t too far off in offensive production compared to the Bucs. They have the second best offense (2nd pass, 20th run) and the 25th ranked defense (14th pass, 30th run)
What to watch for:
- The Bucs’ receiving corps against the Steelers’ secondary: This is a matchup nightmare for Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay has four receivers (including Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard) that are all 6-foot-1 or taller. The tallest corner on the Steelers is Artie Burns, who barley checks in at six feet tall.
- The Steelers’ receiving corps against the Bucs’ secondary: While the Steelers don’t have the biggest receivers, they are all extremely talented and have an excellent rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. JuJu Smith-Schuster should have a big night.
- Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard: The Steelers have allowed 10 receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns through two games to opposing tight ends. Granted, most of that was given up to Travis Kelce, but one could argue that Howard is just as athletic as Kelce and that Brate is just as effective in the redzone.
- Steelers’ defensive line against Bucs’ offensive line: Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are no joke. The Bucs had issues at times with the Eagles’ pass rush last week, especially with Fletcher Cox. Caleb Benenoch better be ready.
- Tampa Bay’s running game: Opponents are currently averaging 150 yards per carry against the Steelers. Having a quarterback that can run helps as well. Patrick Mahomes and Tyrod Taylor combined for 13 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown - and we all know that Fitzpatrick can run, too.
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: For the third consecutive week, Fitzpatrick makes the list.
- WR DeSean Jackson: The NFL’s leading receiver should have another big game if he’s matched up with Cameron Sutton in the slot.
- TE O.J. Howard: Howard should have another big game on Monday night.
- CB Brent Grimes: It looks like Grimes will suit up for the first time this season. How much he plays is unknown, but Tampa Bay will need him at his best.
- S Justin Evans: He will be responsible for not letting Antonio Brown get past the defense.
- K Chandler Catanzaro: More of a liability than an impact player - despite the knock - Chandler will need to hit ALL of his kicks.
- QB Ben Roethlisberger: With Leveon Bell off the roster, this is Ben’s offense.
- WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster is already the league’s best slot receiver and you saw what Nelson Agholor did to M.J. Stewart last week.
- RB James Connor: Bell’s backup had a great Week 1, but not so much in Week 2. A lot of that had to do with game flow, but the Bucs will need to contain him.
- DT Cameron Heyward: As mentioned earlier, Heyward will be unleashed on the Bucs’ offensive line and they will need to figure out how to slow him down.
- LB T.J. Watt: Watt has been as disruptive as they come since he entered the NFL.
- CB Joe Haden: He will most likely be matched up against Mike Evans, which will be fun to watch.
- Tampa Bay’s 75 points scored, 810 passing yards and 965 total yards are all the most through two games in franchise history. The team’s 810 passing yards are the most in any two-game stretch in team history, while the 965 total yards are the second-most in any two-game stretch in team history.
- The 75 points scored are the second-most in any two-game stretch in team history.
- Fitzpatrick has four touchdown passes of 50+ yards through the first two games of the season, tying N.Y. Jets QB Joe Namath (1972) for the most 50+ yard touchdown passes through the first two games of the season in NFL history.
- Fitzpatrick is the first player in the NFL to post consecutive games with a passer rating of 140 or higher since 2015 and he is the first Buccaneer in history to do so.
- On Tampa Bay’s first play of the game against Philadelphia (9/16), WR DeSean Jackson caught a 75-yard touchdown - the longest opening play from scrimmage in franchise history. It was Jackson’s 23rd career touchdown of at least 60 yards, tying Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the most such touchdowns in NFL history.
Tampa Bay has an opportunity to send one of the NFL’s proudest franchises into total dismay in front of a national audience.
The Bucs are on fire while the Steelers are not. Both teams have faced their share of distractions in the early weeks. From the Jameis Winston suspension/lawsuit to the ever-growing rift between Pittsburgh’s management and Leveon Bell/Antonio Brown - plus a 0-1-1 record - each team needs to win to keep the distractions at bay.
This game is pretty much a toss-up and will come down to who can execute better. So far, the Bucs have been far more efficient and impactful on offense than the Steelers. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay have both struggled on defense, so expect another shootout Monday night.
Then again this is the NFL and it probably wouldn’t surprise anyone if this ended up as a 20-17 game.