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Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pittsburgh Steelers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach Mike Tomlin says the death of the Steelers has been greatly exaggerated, a chip his team wears on its shoulder pads. Certainly, a 2–0 start is a bit of a surprise given the four-game suspension to Ben Roethlisberger and the injury to backup Dennis Dixon. Tomlin will start veteran Charlie Batch at Tampa Bay Sunday, and it’s the Steelers' wobbly quarterbacks situation that gives the surprising Bucs a chance to start the season with three straight wins.
The Steelers’ offense has yet to score an offensive touchdown in regulation this season, and the Bucs’ defense has not allowed a point in the second half. As good as the defense has been for the Bucs, the biggest reason they opened the season with wins over Cleveland and at Carolina is the development of quarterback Josh Freeman. The second-year pro has a firm handle on the offensive scheme under coordinator Greg Olson and is making good decisions with the football, as evidenced by his 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“You’re just amazed and so happy and proud of that kid and what he’s been able to do and how far he’s come on the plays he didn’t make,”  Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.

Keys for the Bucs
• Get help for Cadillac Williams. The Bucs’ running back already is showing some wear. He rushed 27 times for 51 yards last week at Carolina and took a physical beating. He was unable to practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. Backup Kareem Huggins should be active this week after sitting at Carolina with a groin injury. They also could turn to Earnest Graham, who has been starting at fullback. A big matchup here is Tampa center Jeff Faine against Steelers nosetackle Casey Hampton.
• Create turnovers. The Bucs are a very opportunistic defense. They give up some yards but have a penchant for big plays. Cornerback Ronde Barber is off to one of his best starts with an interception in each of the first two games. But the Bucs have lost safety Tanard Jackson, who was suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy. Sabby Piscitelli is the likely player to replace him. But make no mistake, the Bucs' defense has to match the Steelers' defense in producing turnovers.

Keys for the Steelers
• Dominate on defense. The Steelers have the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense, allowing 10 points per game. They held electrifying Titans’ running back Chris Johnson to 34 yards and forced seven turnovers, sending quarterback Vince Young to the bench. That kind of effort may be needed again Sunday against a Bucs team that boasts the league’s No. 3 scoring defense, allowing 10.5 points per game.
• Run the football. Face it, the Steelers don’t want Batch to fill the sky with footballs. He has to follow the recipe of running the football and not making the big mistake. In other words, let the defense win the game. Rashard Mendenhall has been the hero in two games. He rushed for 120 yards and the game-winning TD on a 50-yard run in OT against the Falcons. Last week, he was the workhorse with 69 yards on 23 carries.

Bottom Line
The Steelers have too much strength on defense, especially against a Bucs offense that has been so ineffective running the football. That puts all the pressure on the shoulders of Freeman, who will be running for survival and unlikely to continue his pace of converting 42 percent on third down. Steelers, 16–7.

Week 3
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