The 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not experiencing a 'Super Bowl hangover.' They are, in fact, not even defending Super Bowl champions! But a 29-10 overall record over the first two seasons with Tom Brady in town – yes, including a Super Bowl title after the 2020 campaign – certainly inflated expectations heading into this season, and a 3-3 record six weeks in feels a bit disappointing. The Buccaneers had a chance to get on a winning streak Sunday against a banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers team starting a rookie quarterback, but left Acrisure with a 20-18 loss.
After Sunday's defeat, Head Coach Todd Bowles did not say his team was coasting on its reputation, but he certainly seemed to warn against the possibility.
"No, I didn't say we were," said Bowles. "I'm just saying, you get patted on the back so much, just you got to relive. Every year and every week, you got to go out there and earn your pay and earn your keep. And if you don't live like that, then it's going to be a result like today."
The Steelers came into the game riding a four-game losing streak, with a 1-4 record overall, and rookie passer Kenny Pickett was making just his second NFL start. The Buccaneers obviously didn't take one of the league's traditional powerhouses lightly, but they were favored by more than a touchdown and didn't hold a lead at any point in the contest. The Bucs are tied for first in the NFC South and they are one of six teams in the confusing NFC with a 3-3 record, but they don't believe they have put together a complete game yet in 2022.
"I think, you know, we didn't earn it," said Brady after Sunday's loss. "We didn't earn the win. It's a game of earning it and it's a game of playing well and performing well. And we're just not doing a good job of that. I don't think we've done it for six weeks. I think we're all playing less than what we're capable of and we've all got look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out why."
Bowles was, in fact, questioned directly after the game if the Buccaneers had taken the Steelers lightly given some of the apparent advantages they had coming into the game. He said that was not the case but he made it clear that his team's past success was not going to make things any easier in 2022.
"We didn't take them lightly, number one," said Bowles. "Number two, I think guys that are living off the Super Bowl are living in a fantasy land. And you got to get your hands dirty and go to work like everybody else. And we've been working hard and we've got to work harder. You know, because nobody's going to give us anything or feel sorry. So we got to go back as coaches, as players, and the time for talking is over. You either got to put up or shut up."
The Buccaneers' next game is at Carolina on Sunday, October 23, where they will have a chance to run their division record to 3-0. The Buccaneers are tied with Atlanta for first in the South but already hold a head-to-head win over the Falcons. Given the Panthers' recent struggles and their firing of Head Coach Matt Rhule last Monday, it's likely that the Buccaneers will be favored again in that road contest. To Bowles, that is irrelevant, as is any talk of how much success Tampa Bay has had in recent years. In fact, that's what he said was his message to the team after Sunday's loss.
"If you're hurt, go on into the training room," said Bowles. "If you're not, show up Wednesday ready for work. The time for talking is over. We got to show -- we got to put in work. There's nothing to talk about right now."