By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers had an opportunity to outplay the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who entered the game with no wins on the season. Instead, the Steelers allowed mental mistakes, penalties and poor play on both sides of the ball to determine their 2-2 fate heading into their week five game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team looked undisciplined and allowed a seven point lead to be erased in the final minutes of a game they should have handled.
Fans have been calling for changes by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff, but players make the mistakes on the field regardless of the amount of coaching they’ve been given during practice. This was evident this week. Head coach Mike Tomlin, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau have stressed over the past two weeks that the team cannot afford breakdowns and costly penalties.
The Steelers let themselves down, drawing 13 penalties for -125 yards on Sunday. For any coach, that number is inexcusable, even if officiating this season has been questioned for the number of calls that have been made in NFL games. Following the game, Tomlin said, “We need to fix [the penalties]. And if we don’t we will continue to lose football games. It’s that simple.” Tomlin pointed out that technical and orientation-like penalties, like facemasking, hurt but that “pre-snap and post-snap and post-play penalties are just lacking discipline.” It’s time that Tomlin live up to his insistence that he will fix these issues.
Pittsburgh had an unbalanced offensive performance against Tampa Bay. While Le’Veon Bell was able to manage 63 yards on 19 carries, the Steelers were forced to count on Roethlisberger to use his arm to get critical yardage and points on the scoreboard. Having the running game break down against a Buccaneers defensive front that has had issues appeared to be a mental breakdown by Pittsburgh.
Antonio Brown led the team in receptions with seven for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Heath Miller, receiver Markus Wheaton and Bell helped give the offense 305 net yards in the passing game. Roethlisberger recorded 314 yards on 29-of-40 passes completed for three touchdowns but suffered due to penalties, false starts and breakdowns along the offensive line that led to him being sacked five times for a loss of 26 yards and lost two fumbles. Marcus Gilbert was able to fall on one, securing the ball for the Steelers once again.
The Steelers’ most critical breakdown in defense came in the last four minutes of play. Up by seven, the defense allowed Mike Glennon to capitalize on a poor punt by Brad Wing to take over at the Pittsburgh 46 yard-line. Glennon was able to find Louis Murphy, who played his first game of 2014 this weekend, in stride and move the ball to the Pittsburgh five yard-line. Two plays later, Glennon found Vincent Jackson in front of cornerback William Gay to secure the win.
The defense struggled off and on throughout the game, veterans along with younger players. They allowed Tampa Bay to score on the second play of their first possession, and then with a mere five minutes into the game, the Buccaneers were able to put three more points on the board, causing the Steelers to trail 10-0.
Positives for the defense were found in an interception by Cortez Allen and a sack by Cam Heyward on Glennon for a 15-yard loss. Heyward now has two sacks on the season.
The Steelers need to find a punter — fast. Brad Wing has struggled all season and with 50 seconds left in the game booted the ball just 29 yards, setting up the Buccaneers for the winning score. Even typically steady Shaun Suisham missed a field goal, but went three-for-three on extra points. There were no opportunities for the Steelers to return either punts or kickoffs.
The Steelers move to 2-2 on the season. In what many considered a ‘trap’ game, the Steelers once again allowed a team to win that they should have been able to control. To get back on track, the Steelers will need to make critical adjustments immediately in preparation for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. What makes this loss so heartbreaking is that it comes just days after a nice win against the Carolina Panthers, a much better team than Tampa Bay. Overall, the Steelers failed — and did so in an embarrassing manner.
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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on