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Mike Smith speaks to the media

Pass rush will be key for the defense on Monday

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Training Camp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to practice on Thursday afternoon, in preparation for their week three matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith spoke to the media following the teams practice.

The Buccaneers did get some positive news today on the injury front regarding both Vita Vea and Brent Grimes. In regards to Vita Vea, it is unclear whether or not he will play this weekend, but Smith is confident in his ability to make an immediate impact.

“Oh absolutely. Vita’s a big man. He’s going to demand four hands on him,” Smith said. “If they try to put two hands on him he’s going to be a guy that’s going to be able to get penetration into the offensive backfield. We’re just waiting for the word where he can get out and help us.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Grimes declared himself 100% today and is excited to return to the field on Monday. Mike Smith is also looking forward to getting his top cornerback against the games best receiver.

“It’s going to be great to have him back today first – out there on the practice field – and getting him reacclimated to playing football. He’s a very good defensive back that is going to make us a better defense, so we love having Brent out there,” Smith said. “He knows and understands the game and he’s going to help the other guys as well because he’s a guy that really studies and understands splits, and how people are trying to attack us.”

Tampa Bay is off to a great start and the Steelers are coming in to Raymond James Stadium desperate for a win. With the drama surrounding the Steelers right now, you can make the argument that this is a must win game for them. Mike Smith knows the Steelers will be ready to go come Monday.

“I think when you don’t get the outcome you want in the previous week, it ramps up your desire. I don’t think it matters if you were a playoff team or you were a team that was in the middle of the pack. Guys in this league are super competitive – we don’t like to lose,” Smith said. “I can assure you that Coach [Mike] Tomlin is going to have those guys ready to go when we play them on Monday night. I hate to say underwhelmed, overwhelmed – when we go play the team that didn’t get the outcome they wanted the previous [week] they got a little something in their neck.”

There was no question that the overall defensive performance improved from week one to week two for the Buccaneers, but the pass rush is what was noticeably improved.

“I think the biggest progress that we made as a defensive football team was that we were a lot better in our pass rush and putting the pressure on the quarterback. We got to him three times and we hit him about a dozen times,” Smith said. “That was probably the biggest thing. It was a lot of individual effort, but it was also a group of guys that were working together in terms of knowing what each other was doing and being assist-men for each other.”

If the Buccaneers want to get to 3-0, the pass rush will need to step up again or Big Ben will shred this defense apart.