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Bucs vs Steelers: Five keys to victory

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A short-handed Tampa Bay defense will need to limit Pittsburgh’s success on offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Tampa Bay might be the most surprising team in the NFL through the first two weeks of the 2018 season. After knocking off New Orleans in a high-octane affair in week one, the Buccaneers responded by taking down the defending champs last Sunday.

It won’t get any easier in week three with Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town. Despite missing Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers offense is still elite, currently ranked No. 2 in the league behind who else, Tampa Bay.

It’ll be interesting to see if Ryan Fitzpatrick can stay hot against a Pittsburgh defense that struggled against the pass a week ago. The Bucs have the weapons on offense to light up the scoreboard for the third straight week against a defense that has allowed 31.5 points per game.

1. Finding success on the ground

Though Tampa Bay has blitzed its opponents up through the air during its first two games, the Buccaneers haven’t found much success on the ground.

As a whole, the offense has averaged 77.5 rushing yards per game on only 2.7 yards per attempt. Tampa Bay may have to get more creative with its play calling to open up the run.

Will we see Ronald Jones get a chance to spark this offense in week three?

2. Taking advantage of a weak secondary

Pittsburgh got blindsided last week in a high-scoring loss to Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes was on fire, completing 23 of his 28 passes for 326 yards and six touchdowns.

With the success Tampa Bay has had through the air in its first two wins, Fitzpatrick and the receiving corps will be the players to watch on Monday night.

The former Harvard star has been incredible early in 2018, completing 78.7% of his passes for 819 yards with eight touchdowns compared to just one interception. If the deep balls continue to connect, expect another explosive performance from the Bucs offense.

3. Pass protection

Despite the Steelers allowing 31.5 points per game and having some breakdowns in the secondary, this team has rushed the passer well.

Pittsburgh has amassed eight sacks during its first two games, netting four in each contest. On the other side, Tampa Bay has only allowed two sacks in its first two games.

After holding off a stout Philadelphia Eagles defensive line last week, the Bucs offensive line is up for another challenge.

4. A big game from the defensive line

Tampa Bay is heading into its contest against Pittsburgh severely limited on the defensive line. Starting defensive tackle Beau Allen and First-Round pick Vita Vea have both been ruled out for the game.

That means Gerald McCoy and Jerel Worthy are the only healthy interior linemen for the Buccaneers. We’ll likely see defensive ends William Gholston and Will Clarke get some burn on the inside to help keep McCoy as fresh as possible.

This is going to be a grinding effort from this defense and it all starts up front. Tampa Bay is going to need the entire defensive line to step up this week.

5. Limiting intermediate plays

Despite starting 0-2, Pittsburgh has still performed well on offense. The Steelers are tied for first in the NFL with 58 first downs, with 42 coming through the air.

Tampa Bay has surrendered 376.5 passing yards per game to New Orleans and Philadelphia. Starting cornerback Brent Grimes was a full participant on Saturday and he could provide a big boost to the Bucs secondary.

Grimes missed the first two games with a hamstring injury. Safety Chris Conte is also expected to play despite a knee injury.

With a short-handed defensive line and a young defensive backfield, it is vital for Tampa Bay to limit Pittsburgh’s intermediate plays to try and prevent them from racking up first downs.