Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gameday: Tampa Bay Bucs

Heinz Field
TV: FOX (map)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Momentum

The Steelers have some momentum coming out of a dominating second half performance in Carolina last week. On the other side, Tampa is trying to find some momentum after getting shelled by Atlanta on Thursday night. Tampa does have an extra few days of rest coming off their Thursday Night game and will be looking to restore some respect after the last game. The Steelers need to put their foot down right out of the gate and stomp out any hope Tampa has of keeping this game close, just like the Falcons did. If the Steelers offense can continue to perform like they did in the second half against the Panthers, this should be no problem against a Bucs defense that is nowhere near as good as Carolina's.

2. Mike Glennon vs Josh McCown

Josh McCown was the Bucs starter through the first three games. To get this out of the way, we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for McCown because it was his game-winning TD pass for Arizona back in 2003 that allowed the Steelers to get Ben Roethlisberger. More on that below. Anyways, Tampa's offense was mostly stagnant under McCown who did not throw the ball down the field and relied on short passes to move the team. After McCown suffered a hand/thumb injury last week, Glennon took over and was a different animal. While he is not as accurate as McCown and will hold onto the ball forever (take note, Jason Worilds), Glennon has  huge arm and is not afraid to take shots down the field. Given the size advantage that Tampa's receivers (Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans) have on pretty much every corner in the league, this presents a potentially dangerous combination if Glennon can be accurate.

3. The Replacements

The Steelers defense suffered 3 major injuries last week. Ike Taylor broke his forearm on a hit with Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier sprained his knee when Timmons fell on him making a tackle, and Jarvis Jones separated his wrist. Taylor had surgery on his arm but is still on the active roster as the Steelers hope he will be able to return in 6-8 weeks. Jones was placed on the Injured Reserve-Designated for Return list which puts him out of commission for 8 weeks. Shazier's injury is a little bit more short-term but will still keep him out of the next few games. Sean Spence will get his first NFL start (and what a journey that has been) in replacement of Shazier. At Outside Linebacker, Arthur Moats will fill in for Jones. The Steelers signed James Harrison out of retirement this week to take Moats' backup spot. In the secondary, Will Gay will be an every-down player now at corner and it remains to be seen whether the Steelers will use Antwon Blake as the 3rd corner and play him on the outside, sliding Gay inside or use Brice McCain/BW Webb as the slot corner and keep Gay outside.

4. Fundamental Football

The Steelers played a great fundamental second half against the Panthers. At its core, despite everything you'll hear, the key to winning football is being able to run the ball and stop the run. If the Steelers can do those two things, they'll be set up to head into the second quarter of the season with a 3-1 record with games against Jacksonville and Cleveland up next. Stop the run, pressure the quarterback, force turnovers, run the ball, score touchdowns not field goals. The Steelers are 8-1 all-time against Tampa Bay, with their only loss coming in 1998. Also, Tampa has never scored more than 22 points against the Steelers.

5. The Other Bucs

Everyone will be scoreboard watching in Pittsburgh today, and not because of the Steelers. The Pirates enter the final game of the season (against Johnny Cueto and the Reds) just one game behind the Cardinals for the National League Central title. If the Bucs win and Cards lose, it would set up a one-game play-off for the division champion. The loser of the one-game play-off for the division would have to play San Francisco on Wednesday in the Wild Card Game while the winner would play Los Angeles in the 5-game divisional series. If the Pirates lose to the Reds, they will play host to the Giants in the Wild Card Game on Wednesday. #Buctober

Random n'at: the McCown-Roethlisberger Connection

Heading into Week 17 of 2003, the Arizona Cardinals were in position for the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. The top prospect was Ole Miss QB Eli Manning. However, in Week 17, against a Minnesota Vikings team that needed a win to make the playoffs, Josh McCown threw a last-second touchdown to give the Cardinals the victory and send the Vikings home.

With the Cardinals win, they jumped to the #4 spot in the draft, giving the San Diego Chargers the #1 pick. Eli vehemently stated that he had no desire to play in San Diego, but the Chargers drafted him anyways. This prompted a draft-day trade with the New York Giants that sent Eli to New York and Phillip Rivers to San Diego. Eventually, the Steelers took Ben Roethlisberger 11th overall. But what if McCown hadn't thrown that touchdown pass? The Cardinals would have been hard-pressed to not pick Eli #1 overall (they certainly wouldn't have taken Larry Fitzgerald #1, who was their eventual selection at #4.) If the Cards took Eli, the Chargers likely would have taken Rivers with the #2 pick and the Giants, still in need of a quarterback, would have taken Big Ben at #5. Thankfully, Josh McCown did throw that touchdown and Big Ben fell to the Steelers.

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