Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pittsburgh Pregame Report: Similar Approaches

Despite another change at starting quarterback, the Steelers are expected to follow their usual game plan, something the Buccaneers have had success emulating this season


Be stingy on defense.  Hold onto the ball on offense by sticking to the running game and avoiding turnovers.  Control the clock.  Be stronger than your opponent in the fourth quarter.

That could be a review of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' winning game formula at Carolina last weekend, and also versus Cleveland in the 2010 season opener.  What it actually is, however, is Raheem Morris' assessment of what the Pittsburgh Steelers will try to do in Raymond James Stadium in Week Three.

Pittsburgh brings, essentially, a third-string quarterback into action on Sunday, though Charlie Batch has both a solid NFL resume and the well-earned confidence of Steeler brass.  Batch is at the helm because starter Ben Roethlisberger is still on suspension and his replacement, Dennis Dixon, suffered a knee injury in Week Two.  That obviously involves an adjustment for the Steelers, but perhaps not a very significant one.  Morris, Tampa Bay's second-year head coach, knows that Pittsburgh's underlying approach won't change no matter who is taking the snaps.

"When you're playing a sharp team like you're playing today and you're playing a guy that's been there for awhile, a guy that understands the system, he'll know exactly what to do with the football," said Morris.  "It doesn't really change much for them.  They're going to go out there and keep their game plan.  They're going to play great defense, they're going to maintain possession of the ball and try to wear the clock down and try to wear you down physically.  We've got to go out there and be better that day.  That's what we're preparing for: Be better that day."

In other words, as much respect as the Buccaneers have for the Steelers and their approach to the game, they believe they can follow a similar path to success on Sunday.

"You aspire to be like certain teams and this is one of those teams that you can definitely put in that category," said Morris. "They're big, they're physical, they're mentally tough, they're well-coached and we're going out there today to compete against a very good competitor.  We can't wait."

Josh Freeman, the second-year Buccaneer quarterback playing an impressively mature game so far this year, has been key in keeping his team on that path.  Freeman appears to have taken a significant step forward in his second NFL season, and Morris would be pleased if his young passer simply duplicates the steady (and occasionally spectacular) performances of the last two games.

"He's just maintaining the same script," said Morris.  "He's going out every day and preparing as if for greatness, and that's what he's been getting.  He's been getting out of games with limited mistakes, keeping possession of the football and that's the most important thing that he's trying to do right now in order to get his teams win."

The 22-year-old Freeman is the youngest starting quarterbacks in the league at the moment, but that fits in nicely with the rest of the Buccaneers, who sport the second-youngest roster overall in the NFL.  The starting lineup gets another infusion of youth on Sunday when 23-year-old rookie Cody Grimm takes over for the suspended Tanard Jackson at free safety.  A seventh-round pick out of Virginia Tech, Grimm ascends to starter status in just the third game of his pro career, but Morris believes the rookie is ready.

Though they didn't enjoy losing Jackson, the Buccaneers do feel as if they are well-covered at the position.

"We'll put the young man Cody Grimm in there," said Morris.  "The young man is sharp, he's savvy, he understands the position, he's been backing up Tanard and he's ready to go.  He deserves the opportunity and we're going to give it to him.

"Ronde Barber's been in this league so long that he's cross-trained and he can play any position out there that we ask him to play.  He'd be one of those guys that could go in there in an emergency pinch.  We also have Sabby Piscitelli that's out there who can play with us, and we also fortunately have Mr. [Corey] Lynch.  So we're pretty stacked at that position and we feel good about our depth.  We're getting ready to go play."

The Buccaneers won't be missing any starters due to injury, though reserves RB Kareem Huggins (groin), WR Maurice Stovall (back), CB Myron Lewis (knee) and LB Niko Koutouvides (ankle) will be held out.  Stovall was just added to the injury report on Saturday as questionable.  The Buccaneers needed to name only seven inactives, as they came into the game with a 52-man roster.  In addition to Huggins, Stovall and Koutouvides, the Bucs also deactivated C/G Ted Larsen, DE Michael Bennett and designated third QB Rudy Carpenter.

C Jeff Faine missed a good portion of the week's practice with a calf injury but will be able to play and take his normal spot in the starting lineup.  TE Kellen Winslow will also be in action; he played last week and caught three passes for 83 yards despite missing most of the practice week.  This week, Winslow participated fully on Wednesday and Friday, and that could lead to an even more active day against the Steelers.

"It was great to see him out there practicing this week, getting in rhythm again with his quarterback," said Morris.  "Although he didn't miss much without practicing last week, but it's always good when those two can practice together, hook up on all the same routes.  So I'm expecting more out of them this week.

As mentioned above, Pittsburgh's starting quarterback, Dennis Dixon, is out and will be replaced by Charlie Batch.  The Steelers are also without starting right guard Trai Essex (ankle); second-year man Doug Legursky will start in his place.

In addition to Dixon and Essex, the Steelers deactivated CB Keenan Lewis, RB Jonathan Dwyer, CB Crezdon Butler, T Tony Hills, WR Emmanuel Sanders and LB Thaddeus Gibson.

The Buccaneers and Steelers will kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET.  Buccaneers.com will post an update of the first-half action during halftime and a detailed game report after the final whistle.  In addition, Gene Deckerhoff and Dave Moore of the Buccaneers Radio Network will provide a wrap-up of the action on video after the game.

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