PITTSBURGH- Tampa Bay grabbed an early first quarter lead but Pittsburgh got three touchdown passes from their backup quarterbacks as the Steelers beat the Buccaneers 30-28 on Friday night.
Tampa Bay won the opening toss & elected to receive. Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II took the opening kickoff at the goal line & returned the ball just inside the twenty yard line.
On their opening drive, the Buccaneers ran 12 plays on their first possession, equally running & throwing the ball six times. Quarterback Jameis Winston relied on his running backs during the opening drive with the combination of Jones & Peyton Barber totaling 31 rushing yards plus two receptions. And Winston, who went five for six for 56 yards on his first & only possession of the game, ended the drive by hitting wide receiver Chris Godwin with a 9 yard screen pass for the game's first touchdown.
Pittsburgh, who chose to sit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger & start Joshua Dobbs, recorded one first down on their first possession, but punted the ball back to Tampa Bay. Led by backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the Buccaneers had another strong drive on their second possession, moving the ball into the redzone again. But the drive ended with a turnover on downs when running back Andre Ellington was stopped for no gain on a fourth & one run to the right side.
Following that fourth down stop by the defense, the Steelers put together their own strong drive. Two plays into the drive it appeared the Buccaneers defense registered a turnover when cornerback Vernon Hargreaves snatched a Dobbs' sideline pass for an apparent interception. But the play was nullified by offsetting penalties. And two plays later, needing 21 yards for a first down, Dobbs hooked up with wide receiver James Washington for 22 yards. That conversion led to the Steelers getting into the redzone but they had to settle for a 33 yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell.
The Buccaneers went three & out on the next drive, the first one led by quarterback Ryan Griffin. And the Steelers took the lead on their first touchdown of the game, with third string quarterback Mason Rudolph finding Washington for an eight yard touchdown catch making the score 10-7.
The second drive led by Griffin ended even quicker than the first one when the quarterback was sacked & fumbled, leading to Boswell's second field goal for the Steelers.
Trailing by six, the Buccaneers got the ball back with just over a minute left in the first half. And Griffin completed four passes on the drive to get the Buccaneers in position to try a long field goal. Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians sent out kicker Matt Gay & the rookie split the uprights with a 55 yard field goal at the end of the half.
Neither team scored on their opening possession of the second half. But after a long completion, Pittsburgh added their second touchdown of the game when Rudolph hit backup tight end Zack Gentry for a three yard touchdown pass.
Tampa Bay cut Pittsburgh's lead to single digits with a 10 yard touchdown by running back Dare Ogunbowale but the two point conversion failed, making the score 20-16. But Pittsburgh took the next drive 76 yards, getting their third touchdown pass of the game, with quarterback Devlin Hodges & wide receiver Tevin Jones hooking up for an eight yard touchdown pass.
Pittsburgh added another field goal making their lead 30-16. But Griffin ended a 13 play Tampa Bay drive with a four yard connection to tight end Tanner Hudson, who made a one-handed grab in the endzone. Arians decided to go for two again, but for the second time his team failed on the conversion attempt, leaving the deficit at eight.
Tampa Bay had one last chance to tie the score & after five completions by Griffing, Ogunbowale scored his second touchdown of the game, a one yard run with 10 seconds left in the game. But the third failed two point conversion with Griffin throwing incomplete to Ogunbowale.
Tampa Bay plays their second preseason game next Friday night at 7:30pm when they host Miami at Raymond James Stadium.