Week 3 of the NFL season comes to a close as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Buccaneers head into Week 3 after two dominant offensive wins led by backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Conversely, the Steelers enter Week 3 as an almost broken team, conceding 42 points in a home loss to the Chiefs last week. Star Running Back Le’Veon Bell is still holding out, whilst All-Pro Receiver Antonio Brown has been very vocal about his frustrations. The Steelers have their backs against the wall here and will need a vintage Roethlisberger performance to save their season.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate or NFL Game Pass Tuesday at 10:20am
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reserve Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has done an outstanding job filling in for Jameis Winston, throwing for 819 yards and 8 touchdowns in consecutive wins. In DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans, he has arguably the best receiving duo in the league, which is complimented well by Tight End O.J. Howard. The running attack will need to improve however, with Running Backs Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers combining for only 35 yards on 21 carries last week.
Defensively, the Bucs have done just enough to win through the first 2 weeks. They held the Eagles rushing offense to only 3.8 yards per carry and forced two turnovers in last week’s win. Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Jason Pierre-Paul lead a ferocious front seven that will disrupt many offensive game plans this year. Meanwhile Chris Conte, Carlton Davis and Justin Evans combine for an opportunistic and capable secondary.
Offensively, the Steelers have put up some solid numbers to start the season. Pro Bowl QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for 452 yards and 3 scores in last week’s victory, whilst Tight End Jesse James and Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster both had over 100 yards and a touchdown. Running Back James Conner has had a mixed start filling in for holdout RB Le’Veon Bell. He managed 135 yards against the Browns in Week 1 but will need to improve on the 17 yards in Week 2 for the Steelers to win here.
The Steelers are coming off a very lacklustre defensive performance where they allowed 42 points to the Chiefs. Opposing QB Patrick Mahomes had 3 touchdowns in the first quarter and 6 in the game as he carved up the Steelers passing defence. The rushing defence didn’t fare much better, allowing 127 yards at over 5 yards per carry. Without star Linebacker Ryan Shazier, the Steelers will need to rely on strong performances from defensive anchors T.J Watt, Morgan Burnett and Vince Williams.
The Bucs have put in consecutive strong performances against two of the NFL’s best from last season. Weapons such as the aforementioned Jackson, Evans and Howard make Fitzpatrick’s job that much easier. Their big play ability will also open up holes for Barber and Rodgers in the running game. If Fitzpatrick is even 75% of what he has been so far this season, I believe the Bucs have the edge in this matchup.
It’s clear that the Steelers offense misses Le’Veon Bell. Backup James Conner managed only 17 yards on the ground last week and I expect the strong Bucs front seven to make things difficult for him this week as well. Amidst some locker room in-fighting, I don’t think Roethlisberger can produce the superhuman performance necessary to pull this one out.
Given the strong offensive starts these two teams have gotten off to, I understand this relatively high total. However, especially on Monday Night Football I believe this line is inflated by about 5-6 points. This Bucs defence is probably more talented than a Cleveland one that allowed only 21 Steelers points through 5 quarters of play. Similarly, I just don’t see 4 touchdowns for Fitzpatrick again this week.
I believe that some early season shootouts have meant that these two defences are somewhat undervalued. The Bucs defense is arguably the strongest unit in this game and they have the tools to halt the high-powered Steelers offense. On the other side, I expect the Bucs to look to control the game through their rushing attack which naturally leads to lower scores.
Buccaneers Win By 1-13
Whilst I expect the Buccaneers to win this one outright as an underdog, I believe it will be a close one. There just isn’t a huge talent gap between these two sides and I can’t see either of them getting blown out. I think that the Bucs have the slight edge here and that it will prove to be a hard-fought and competitive game that remains close throughout.
Le’Veon Bell is a big miss for the Steelers and without him, the Steelers are missing that extra firepower necessary to bring it home here. Roethlisberger, Brown and Co will be sure to make some plays, but a Bucs defence led by Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy will be able to hold them here. Fitz Magic will continue for another week as he makes just enough plays to bring this one home.
Best Bet: Buccaneers 1-13
As outlined above, the Bucs have the slight talent edge and home field advantage. In my experience, this typically equates to a one score victory and as such I’m expecting a Buccaneers win between 3 and 7 points. I look forward to continuing the Ryan Fitzpatrick for MVP discussion after another home win for the Bucs.
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27-24 Steelers