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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Steelers 2010 - Bucs Game (week 3)

And with the Steelers 2-0, a look at this weekend's game.

Tampa Bay, a whopping 3-13 last year, is a surprising 2-0 so far. Now, one is a come-from-behind win, at home, over Cleveland. But hey, a win is a win. They also went into Carolina and whomped the Panthers. Carolina looks better on paper than on the field and has benched starting QB Matt Moore after only two games. So, Tampa Bay is improved, but I don't think we'll be seeing them in the playoff hunt.

I don't know what the Steelers were doing at training camp in Latrobe in August, but they were not ready for a warm, humid day in Nashville. Which does not bode well for a trip to Tampa. The o-line had major cramp problems and guys shuffled in and out a lot. I'd assume there's more of that coming, as well as d-line fatigue. I don't get it.

Pittsburgh has given up one TD so far, and that was while in a soft zone/prevent late against Tennessee. Tampa Bay has a second year QB, Josh Freeman. They benched Byron Leftwich last year in favor of the then rookie. Freeman was a talented but very erratic QB at Kansas State. He has a strong arm and moves well. He's off to a good start, but he had 10 TDs and 18 INTs last year. He's improving, but this guy is going to have a very tough day with the Steelers D.

Cadillac Williams has recovered from two knee surgeries in 2008 and is a pound-it-out guy. He averaged less than two yards per carry against Carolina and he is not going to get yards this weekend. The backups are negligible. I don't expect to see a hundred yard rusher this weekend for the pewter pirates (I know, they don't wear those uniforms anymore. I just like the nickname). Pittsburgh has allowed just one hundred yard rusher in the past 36 games. That was Ray Rice (I think last season).

They have no wide receivers of note and that big jerk, Kellen Winslow, Jr, at tight end. I don't see Tampa Bay able to run, then they're going to have to pass. And I'd be more worried about Matt Ryan and Vince Young than Josh Freeman. Tampa just doesn't seem to have the tools to be effective against this overwhelming Steelers D.

First up, big news today. Tampa Bay's best safety, Tashard Jackson, has been suspended for the rest of the year as a repeat substance abuse offender. So, mid-week, they need to pick a new starter. The other safety is the secondary's weak link. This could open up some downfield throws. If we actually have any of those. The Steelers had 21 yards net passing last weekend. That's beyond horrible. You've got to expect, oh, say, at least 100 this weekend?

The corners aren't bad, though Ronde Barber is slowing down a bit and he's not the pro bowler he once was. If Ben were back there, I'd expect a big passing day. We'll see if Batch (who is starting this week) can do any damage.

The defense is similar in that the d-line stuffs the run so that the linebackers can make plays. But the personnel, while not bad, are nowhere near as good as the Steelers'. Pittsburgh should be able to run some unless Tampa puts 8 guys up there every down. In which case, Batch should at least be able to hit short-to-medium routes.

What say we open the game with a TD return again this week? Reed is better than Tampa Bay's Connor Barth, though Barth has a strong leg. Tampa Bay struggles in the punt game, which could help the Steelers with field position (something they really struggled with against Tennessee) At worst this unit is a wash. After last year, that's fine with me.

I'm more worried about the annual Road Clunker being Miami than Tampa Bay. But  you absolutely can't look past this weekend and think about the Ravens. Atlanta and Tennessee have much better offenses than Tampa Bay and they couldn't score on this D.

The Bucs should really have a hard time putting up points.  If the Steelers can get in the end zone, they should garner back to back road wins with backup QBs. That's pretty impressive. But I'm worried about five things:
1 - The Road Clunker phenomenon, (which is as real as the Madden Cover Curse);
2 - The heat affecting the O and D lines;
3 - The heat wearing down the D in the fourth quarter and leading to Tampa Bay scoring drives;
4 - The lack of passing yards;
5 - The likelihood of way less turnovers (you don't get 7 very often) and scoring even fewer points than last week; So...

While I think this is the most winnable of the first three games, those conditions, combined, could lead to a loss. And we all know what a hard time the Steelers have finishing out close games.

As I mentioned, Batch is starting. Leftwich is the only backup. After that, it's Antwaan Randle El. Tomlin also mentioned that Arnaz Battle was a QB at Notre Dame before he moved to WR.

I like Charlie. Good for him that as a fourth stringer who was going to be cut at the end of camp, he is starting week 3. At least he has a full week of snaps with the starters, as he makes his first start since December of 2007.

 Casey Hampton (hamstring) and Max Starks (ankle) will both play some (might even start), but it's not known how much they can go.

 Trai Essex is likely out, with Doug Legursky filling in at guard. I think that means Ramon Foster and Tony Hills are available to rotate in. The O-line starters have got to provide more snaps this week.

 Overall, the D is healthy and the RB/WR/TE folks are in good shape.

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