A Preview of Week 3

This game is not played for moral victories. Competitive players will feel cold and empty grasping for them when the season is over, and their coaches will feel cold and unemployed. As you saw last Monday against New Orleans, San Francisco came away just as confident as they were before, but absolutely unsatisfied since they lost, even if they outplayed the world champions. I hope Raheem Morris feels the same. If you want to win the race to 10, you gotta often get #3 against a team like this.

When Tampa is throwing: Hands down, this is the key to the game. Greg Olson needs to draw up the right plays to get short passes to the big fellas: Graham, Lumpkin, Mike Williams, and Winslow. There will be a point where they will not be able to run and Josh cannot turn the ball over in this situation, no matter which bones are broken. Edge: even.

When Tampa is running: The Steelers’ 3-4 defense starts with NT Casey Hampton up front and stays ferocious all the way across the front seven. So often, they get behind the line of scrimmage so fast, it doesn’t matter whether they are anticipating pass or run. The play is blown up. If Cadillac Williams couldn’t run against Cleveland and Carolina, well, you get the drift. Edge: Pittsburgh, strongly.

When Pittsburgh is passing: If anyone can step into the Arians system and execute after a few years off, it’s Charlie Batch. That said, the Bucs D has six picks this year and Morris has said he hopes Pittsburgh tests Grimm, for he thinks he is up to the challenge. Edge: Even.

When Pittsburgh is running: The Steelers are a team with so many questions on offense but a team no one would doubt when their defense is rolling. If I had full confidence that the Bucs could move the ball on Pittsburgh, I would think their defense would get enough of a rest for this to be even. Edge: Pittsburgh.

X-Factors:

Special Teams Edge: Pittsburgh; Play-calling Edge: Tampa Bay slightly.

Prediction: Tampa Bay had no trouble moving the ball on Carolina last year in Freeman’s first game against them, churning up 469 yards of offense vs. 309 for Carolina but still lost 16-6. In this battle of two upstart teams, I expect Greg Olson to have a gameplan that allows Freeman to get in a rhythm and put the ball in the playmakers’ hands and let them run after the catch. I also expect a Matt Moore bounce-back game. I really think him making just a few more big plays than Josh Freeman, not the turnovers or the road environment, will be the difference.Steelers 32, Buccaneers 28.


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