Bucs need for their stars to come out tonight

by Gary Shelton on September 24, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

Fitzgerald has to keep the offense rolling./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 3 a.m.

You can compare the histories if you want. The Steelers win. They have a half-dozen Super Bowl trophies, a couple of dozen Hall of Famers. They have a national following.

You can talk about quarterbacks and running backs and linebackers, defensive backs and offensive linemen and owners. The Steelers win that, too. It's hard to believe how meager the franchise was until Chuck Noll came to town.

You can talk about the expectations of this season. Despite their start, there are few analysts who don't expect Pittsburgh still to have a better record than the Bucs.

If you are Tampa Bay, in fact, you have but one thing to talk about.


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The surprising Bucs take on Pittsburgh and its name-brand franchise tonight at Raymond James Stadium. For the third straight week, the Bucs and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick try to surprise a nation. There is a different energy to Monday night, and this might be their biggest Monday night game since that 38-35 victory over the Rams on Dec. 18, 2000.

So how does Tampa Bay win it?

By having its stars come out at night. By playing clean, solid football. By surviving those terrific wideouts of the Steelers. By never taking the foot off of the gas. And with a bit a good fortune.

Also, by several big-game performances.

The top 10 Bucs who have to play well tonight.

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback: No, he doesn't have to be as breathtaking as he has been in his first two games (800-plus yards, eight touchdowns), but he has to be efficient. He has to take care of a Steelers' secondary that gave up six scoring passes to Patrick Mahomes a week ago. He cannot afford interceptions.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end: The Bucs will tell you that Pierre-Paul has been solid, but tonight, he has to be sensational. He has to pressurize Ben Roethlisberger throughout the night. A couple of sacks wouldn't be bad, either.

3. Mike Evans, receiver: Evans isn't the home run hitter that teammate DeSean Jackson is, but he's the Bucs' most dependable receiver, and when he catches the ball, they generally move the first-down chains. Evans had a drop and a fumble last week. He has to be more sure-handed that that.

4. Peyton Barber, running back: I know, I know. It's been hard to watch Barber run in place for two weeks. But Fitzpatrick's job is easier if he has a bit of a running game, and there is no one else. Like any running back, Barber's success is up to the offensive line.

5. Carlton Davis, cornerback: The Steelers' receivers aren't bad, either, and an inconsistent pass rush has made them vulnerable. Brent Grimes' return will help one side, but the Steelers are sure to try to pick on the rookie. How he holds up will be important.

6. Chandler Catanzaro, kicker: It would be nice to have a perfect night off of someone's toe. Catanzaro hasn't been the disaster that either Roberto Aguayo or Nick Folk was a year ago, but he's missed just enough to keep the opponent in the game.

7. DeSean Jackson, receiver: Jackson doesn't have to catch a bomb to be effective. He needs 3-4 middle range catches to keep the Steelers confused.

8. Vita Vea, defensive tackle: No, he probably won't play long. But if he's active, he needs to find a play or two to make his presence known.

9. O.J. Howard, tight end: Howard can create matchup problems for the defense. He's as big as a tight end but he runs like a wide receiver. The deep seam might be open.

10. Justin Evans, safety: The Bucs think that Evans is a real comer. To prove it, he has to make some plays. The Steelers like throwing down the middle, too.

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