Bucs were lightweights against hungry Steelers
Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune, published 27 September 2010|
The reality check was long and painful, and it was hot, and thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans fanned the flames with Terrible Towels each time the Bucs were the Terrible Team.
The rallying cry after this 38-13 thumping, the first loss of the season, and how, was doubtless conjured at halftime. The Bucs already trailed 28-6. The central talking point: We were NOT manhandled. We're 2-1 with a bye coming up and, most important: This wasn't like the Giants and Jets laid on the Bucs last 3-13 season.
Repeating: This was NOT a manhandling. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Steelers ran for 201 yards, got four sacks and Charlie Batch looked Canton-bound.
"We played a heavyweight today," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.
The Bucs were mostly lightweight.
This was a beating, a righteous one. True, it wasn't the Giants and Jets games — the Bucs had 86 yards of offense while being shut out by the Giants and not much more against the Jets. They had 303 yards Sunday. But if that's the best thing about Sunday, namely that it WASN'T as bad as two of the worst games in franchise history, well, by all means, Sunday against the Steelers was party time!
Pittsburgh came in, saw the Bucs weren't on their game and devoured them.
"When you play against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, they almost prey on mistakes," Bucs center Jeff Faine said. "It almost like it's blood in the water."
It was Bucs blood.
This game was bathed in it, no matter where you looked on either side of the ball.
Poor Cody Grimm. His fairy tale didn't even last a quarter. He went up, but swung and missed on the first touchdown of the game, a grab by Mike Wallace. Thanks again, Tanard Jackson. The defense looked awful, like the pre-Raheem-coached D.
"You can feel free to say that, but that's not the case," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said. Barber said the plays were there … he said two of Batch's touchdowns should have been picks. "The opportunities were there."
When it came time to make plays, Pittsburgh did, the Bucs didn't. When it came time to be more physical, the Steelers showed up more than the Bucs. The toughest stuff I saw out of a Buc all day was when hulking newcomer LeGarrette Blount rammed his way to the Bucs' lone TD. There were less than two minutes left. Blount's touchdown prevented the Bucs' worst home loss in 26 years.
This kind of tripe was exactly what this team didn't need to roll out with fans just beginning to get curious — mind you, not curious enough to fill the stadium (not even the Steelers fans could do that) — but curious enough to wonder if 2-0 was real. Well, now 2-1 is real. The Bucs played to it. They coached to it, too.
I have no idea why Morris punted with under 12 minutes left when the Bucs faced fourth-and-3 from the Steelers' 36 when they trailed 38-6 at the time. Morris said the plan was to pin Pittsburgh down and put the Bucs offense in a better … Better than the Pittsburgh 36?
The Steelers are 3-0 without their Big Ben. They're a serious football team. When they see and or smell blood, well, you saw. If you were on the fence about the Bucs, you just fell off.
"To me, judging by the stands, we never had those people," Cadillac Williams said.
There were Steelers fans where Bucs fans used to be. Will those Bucs fans ever be back in 2010?
"To me, this season is going to go one of two ways," Williams said. "We're going to learn from this, get better, or we're going to start pointing fingers at everybody and it's going to go downhill."
It's all about the response.
But this absolutely was NOT like the Giants and Jets games. You got that?
It was blood in the water, just the same.