Rapid Reaction: Steelers 30, Buccaneers 28

RR---PIT

The Buccaneers won the toss and elected to receive – starting the Bruce Arians era off. It was actually running back Ronald Jones who fielded the kickoff with a 19-yard return.

The first play of the preseason went to running back Peyton Barber on a handoff from quarterback Jameis Winston. The second play and first Bucs’ first-down of 2019 was a pass to wide receiver Breshad Perriman for 11 yards.

The well-balanced, 12-play, 81-yard drive culminated in a nine-yard screen pass from quarterback Jameis Winston to wide receiver Chris Godwin for the touchdown. Kicker Cairo Santos was good for the point after and the Bucs strike first, going up 7-0 over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

It was the defense’s turn on the next drive. Safety Jordan Whitehead recorded the first tackle for the Bucs’ defense, a one-yard loss for running back Jaylen Samuels. Though the defense gave up a 43-yard pass to James Washington from quarterback Josh Dobbs, that would be all the Steelers would get. Linebacker Deone Bucannon was credited with a sack on second-down for a loss of eight and Pittsburgh wouldn’t recover and was forced to punt.

With Winston’s mission accomplished on his opening drive, it was quarterback Blaine Gabbert who came in for the Bucs’ offense. Winston went five-for-six for 40 yards and a touchdown. Thanks to a roughing the passer call on third down, Gabbert was able to continue the drive.

After a near touchdown catch by Pittsburgh-native Justin Watson on third down, the Bucs’ drive would stall. They went for it on fourth-and-one on a handoff to running back Andre Ellington, who was tackled in the backfield by Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush – the other Devin in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh took over on downs at their own 17-yard line. After what would have been a 16-yard sack by outside linebacker Carl Nassib turned into an offensive holding penalty. The next play, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves got a terrific interception, but it was negated by offsetting penalties. Dobbs hit Washington for another long one on a 22-yard pass over the middle to move the Steelers down the field. Dobbs again prolonged the drive on 36-yard scamper to get into Bucs’ territory. The drive ended with a 33-yard field goal to get Pittsburgh on the board, 7-3 with just over six minutes left in the half.

The Bucs’ next drive starts with quarterback Ryan Griffin, meaning both Winston and Gabbert were done for the night. Penalties backed the Bucs up to inside their own five-yard line and it was a three-and-out to give newly acquired punter Bradley Pinion some work.

After a penalty on the Steelers, Pittsburgh started their next drive at their own 36-yard line. It was quarterback Mason Rudolph who would come in for the Steelers. A 22-yard run by Jaylen Samuels set Pittsburgh up for a Washington touchdown from Rudolph on an eight-yard pass. The point after is good and the Steelers took their first lead of the game right before the half, 10-7.

With two minutes left, the Bucs went into well, two-minute mode and Griffin was stripped of the ball by rookie Tyler Matakevich for the first turnover of the game. Pittsburgh took over at the Bucs’ 27-yard line. After some pressure by the Bucs’ defense, the Steelers settled for a 47-yard field goal to only increase their lead to 13-7.

Behind a big 24-yard catch by tight end Tanner Hudson, the Bucs moved quickly down the field with Griffin at the helm. With four seconds left in the half, kicker Matt Gay attempted a 55-yard field goal and it was good. The Bucs ended the half trailing by only three, 13-10.

The Steelers got the ball to start the second half but went three-and-out and punted the ball right back to the Bucs.

Tampa Bay went to the ground on their next drive on the first couple plays. The Bucs couldn’t convert the drive into any points, though and were forced to punt.

The Steelers answered with a long run after the catch by Holton from Rudolph. They were able to convert on the touchdown pass from Rudolph to Zach Gentry to put Pittsburgh up 20-10 nearly halfway through the third quarter.

The Bucs and Steelers traded punts on the next two drives before the Bucs got the ball back with about seven minutes left in the third. Tampa Bay was able to capitalize this time. After a great 21-yard catch by Watson from Griffin, Ogunbowale got the ball and fought for the end zone, lunging in for the touchdown. The Bucs went for two after the score but weren’t able to convert, leaving the score 20-16, where it would remain heading into the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh scored within the first minute of the fourth on a pass from quarterback Devlin Hodges to Tevin Jones, extending the Steelers’ lead to 27-16 after the successful point after attempt. 

The Bucs were forced to punt after a sack of Griffin and the Steelers were able to get down the field enough to add three more points, making the score 30-16 with just under 10 minutes to go in the game.

Two big catches by rookie wide receiver Spencer Schnell got the Bucs within striking distance in a hurry. His second catch of 21 yards got them a first-and-goal at the four-yard line. A penalty backed Tampa Bay up but it was made up for by an offsides penalty on Pittsburgh, giving the Bucs another shot on third down from the four-yard line. On fourth down, the Bucs with Griffin at the helm went for it. Tight end Tanner Hudson came up with the four-yard, one-handed catch to cut the lead to 30-22. Tampa Bay again attempted the two-point conversion which was intercepted and the Steelers got the ball back with 4:47 left to go in the fourth.

The Bucs defense got their first takeaway of the night as cornerback Mazzi Wilkins forced a fumble that safety Isaiah Johnson recovered at the Bucs' 37-yard line. Tampa Bay was faced with a fourth-and-two situation down one score at the two-minute warning. After a big gain yet again by Schnell, Griffin fumbled to bring up a second-down and 20. He'd get the ball to Schnell for 14 yards but took a sack on third down.

On fourth down, Griffin connected with Hudson for a big gain to keep the drive alive, taking a big hit in the process that drew a penalty and got the Bucs even closer with under 45 seconds left in the game. Another holding call on the Steelers would inch them up to the three-yard line. Three rushing attempts later and Ogunbowale gets in on his second touchdown of the night. The Bucs went for two again and couldn't convert, ending the game with a 30-28 score in favor of the home team.

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