While the Buccaneers have not graced the Monday Night stage very often, you might be a little surprised to learn of the success Tampa Bay has had with all eyes on them in the prime time lights. The Buccaneers are 11-10 during Monday night contests, giving them a winning percentage of .524 over the life of the franchise. It's especially impressive when you consider the franchise winning percentage over its 42-year history is .385. That .139 jump is the second-largest in the league behind only the Seattle Seahawks, who's win percentage on Monday night is .697 and is .495 in all other games. Scott Smith may or may not have consulted in the findings of these stats.
Now, Buccaneers players and coaches may not be privy to that particular stat, or even Tampa Bay's record on Mondays, but the nuances of the longtime NFL tradition are far from lost on them. Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, while downplaying the spotlight on an individual level, did acknowledge that Monday Night Football does hold a little bit of nostalgia for him.
"From the standpoint of when I was growing up, I was allowed to stay up for Halftime Highlights," said a reminiscent Monken. "It was Monday Night Football. That's what I remember as a kid. I could stay up until then. That's where you got to catch up on all the games over the weekend because we didn't have everything we have now. Listening to Howard Cosell and the Halftime Highlights. That's a highlight to me and if someone's watching football Monday, they're watching a product that we put on the field. To me, that's what it's all about."
It's true all eyes will be on the Buccaneers as they play their only scheduled national appearance. That could change when NFL flex scheduling hits later in the season, but for now this is the only opportunity for the rest of the country to see who the 2018 Buccaneers are. It's an opportunity, but it's one to be weary of according to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has played on Monday night a total of 12 times while a member of the New York Giants.
"As long as you put up a performance because it's Monday night so everybody is watching," Pierre-Paul said of the difference between Monday Night Football and a regular Sunday game. "If you mess up, you mess up but you better go ahead and get to the next play because everybody's watching.
"Hopefully, I'm not that guy," Pierre-Paul joked. Those 12 appearances make him somewhat of an MNF pro. Consider that long-tenured Buccaneer Gerald McCoy has only had the opportunity to play on Monday Night Football twice. The Buccaneers won both contests.
View photos from the Buccaneers' practice Thursday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Another guy who's familiar with the Monday Night limelight is long-time Eagle Vinny Curry, who has played nine times with a record of 6-3 in the prime time slot. Curry dismissed most of the hype surrounding the spotlight and instead offered up another reason why this particular game held weight.
"This one is important because we must protect home field," Curry said. "That's the thing that should get you fired up. It's important to us because you get to play in front of your home crowd."
The home crowd will also be treated to a special halftime ceremony where former Buccaneers' Head Coach Tony Dungy will be inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor. Dungy coached the Buccaneers from 1996-2001 and compiled a .563 winning percentage, taking Tampa Bay to the playoffs four of those years. He has embraced Tampa as his home, despite spending seven seasons as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts following his time with the Buccaneers. Dungy is a familiar face around AdventHealth Training Center and even had the opportunity to address to the team during the preseason. He has earned the respect of not only the fans in Tampa Bay, but its current players and coaches.
"Obviously this Monday night is going to be exciting for Coach Dungy and his family," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said. "Like I said when Coach Gruden went up there [last year], as a coach, to have your name on the stadium in the town you live in – I mean, I don't think it gets much better than that. So congrats to Coach, we're behind him 100 percent."
Despite their 0-1-1 record so far this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a formidable opponent with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the helm of an equally high-powered offense. The Steelers rank just behind the Buccaneers in total offense and passing yards thus far in 2018, averaging 393.5 yards per game through the air. Both receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are tied for the fourth-most receptions through two games this season with 18 apiece. That's more than the Buccaneers' Mike Evans, who leads the team with 17 and ranks seventh in the league.
With such an intriguing matchup, you can bet all eyes will be on the Buccaneers as they take the prime time stage on Monday Night Football.