Tampa Bay-- The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1) got their first win of the season by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) on Monday Night 30-27. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 353 yards & three touchdowns while Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had his third straight 400 yard passing game but also threw three interceptions.
Tampa Bay won the toss but chose to kick & Pittsburgh started their first drive on their own 10 after committing a holding penalty on the kickoff.
The Steelers gained three yards on their first offensive play of the night but were forced to punt after losing a yard on second down then gaining just four yards on a third down & eight play.
After a short punt, Tampa Bay statrted their first drive in good field position, on their own forty one but after a first down hand-off to running back Peyton Barber gained two yards, the Bucs, like the Steelers, went three & out.
On the second drive, the Steelers were able to get first downs on consecutive passes by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But on his next pass intended for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger was picked off by Bucs safety Justin Evans. And that turnover led to the Bucs taking a 7-0 lead, on a four yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to tight end Cameron Brate. Brate's first touchdown catch of the season was the final play of a five play 53 yard drive that included an 18 yard run by Barber.
While Tampa Bay used over two & a half minutes to take the 7-0 lead, Pittsburgh needed just over 90 seconds to get their first touchdown of the game, when facing another early passing situation, Roethlisberger hit tight end Vance McDonald, who sprinted up the left sideline. And after a brutal stiff arm to Bucs safety Chris Conte, McDonald scampered into the endzone for a 75 yard touchdown catch.
After Steelers kicker Chris Boswell missed the extra point, the Bucs maintained a one point lead. And the Bucs, with some help from the Steelers, were able to get 20 yards on their first play, when Fitzpatick, unable to find any receivers, took off for a five yard run. But Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic was called for a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty, for hitting Fitzpatrick when he was already on the ground.
Fitzpatrick was able to complete three passes on the drive including another completion to Brate. But on a third & 9 play, Fitzpatrick was sacked by linebacker Anthony Chickillo for a 9 yard loss, forcing the Bucs to punt.
On the ensuing drive, Pittsburgh took its first lead of the game, when Roethlisberger, like Fitzpatrick, was helped out by a 15 yard penalty, this one a roughing the passer penalty on Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy during a 43 yard completion from Roethlisberger to Smith-Schuster. That completion led to Boswell kicking a 38 yard field goal to give Pittsburgh a 9-7 lead.
Trailing 9-7, the Bucs got a completion from Fitzpatrick to wide receiver Chris Godwin, but Godwin fumbled on the play, giving the Steelers the ball on the Bucs 35 yard line. And Pittsburgh took two plays to get their second touchdown of the game, this one a 27 yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown on the play took a short pass, avoided a tackle attempt by Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes & sprinted up the right side into the endzone.
On the first play from scrimmage following the Brown touchdown, Fitzpatrick was able to connect with wide receiver Mike Evans for a 27 yard gain. And that play was helped by another late hit penalty on the Steelers. Bur after getting into the redzone, a pass by Fitzpatrick that was intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson was battered in the air & intercepted by Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton.
That second Bucs turnover didn't lead to any Steelers points. But after getting the ball back, Fitzpatrick overthrew Evans & this pass was picked off by safety Terrell Edmunds. Edmuncds returned the ball 35 yards. But after a sack by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the Steelers were forced to punt. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the next play after the punt, with Tampa Bay starting at their own two, Fitzpatrick was picked off by Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree, who returned it 10 yards for the pick six.
Tampa Bay trailing 23-7 were able to cut into the Pittsburgh lead when kicker Chandler Catanzaro connected on a 21 yard field goal with over a minute left in the half. But Pittsburgh went 75 yards in a minute & nine seconds just before the half, with Roethlisberger throwing his third touchdown pass of the first half, this time a one yard pass to wide receiver Ryan Switzer.
Tampa Bay received the ball at the start of the second half. And even after being faced with several down & distance issues because of penalties, the Bucs were able to convert those long yardage situations. One of the third down conversions included a 19 yard completion from Fitzpatrick to Godwin. But because of an illegal shift penalty & a sack, the Bucs were unable to get any closer than the Steelers 10 yard line, which is where Catanzaro hit his second field goal of the game.
Leading 30-13, Pittsburgh took the next possession into Tampa Bay territory, with Roethlisberger connecting with Smith-Schuster on three completions. But Boswell missed his second kick of the game, this one a 47 yard field goal attempt. And Tampa Bay took possession after the missed kick & Fitzpatrick ended a 12 play 63 yard drive by scrambling & hitting Godwin in the back of the endzone for a 4 yard touchdown completion.
Tampa Bay, now trailing by 10, allowed one first down to Pittsburgh but forced the visitors the punt. And the Bucs decided to put Jackson back on their own 10 to return the punt. Jackson didn't disappoint, returning the punt 90 yards for an apparent touchdown. But the play was wiped out after a holding penalty on safety Isaiah Johnson.
The Bucs, now starting on their own eight yard line, put together a 9 play 92 yard drive that lasted just under three minutes & ended with Fitzpatrick throwing his third touchdown of the game, this one a 24 yard touchdown to Evans, who led all pass-catchers with 137 receiving yards.
With their lead down to three, Pittsburgh got two first downs but had to punt the ball back to Tampa Bay. The Bucs went three & out on their next possession. And the Steelers, with runs from Conner & a 19 yard completion from Roethlisberer to Smith-Schuster, were able to run the rest of the clock down to end the game.
Tampa Bay (2-1) will travel this weekend for their second road game of the year to take on the first place Chicago Bears (2-1) on Sunday at 1PM.