Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fall Short in 27-17 Preseason Opener Against Pittsburgh Steelers

TAMPA, FL – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off their preseason campaign with a 27-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday night in what can only be described as a steamy battle, with the heat index soaring to a scorching 106 degrees.

Despite the challenging conditions, the Buccaneers took to the field without the familiar faces of Cameron Brate and Leonard Fournette, who were recently released, along with the notable absence of legendary quarterback Tom Brady, who retired after the 2022 season. As the Buccaneers’ revamped roster faced the Steelers, the heat and humidity added an extra layer of complexity to the game.

The decisive play of the game came in the second quarter when Pittsburgh’s RB Anthony McFarland Jr. dashed for a 14-yard touchdown run, solidifying the Steelers’ eventual 27-17 victory. The hot and humid conditions posed a challenge for both teams, as they navigated the grueling weather while showcasing their skills on the field.

The quarterback battle for the Buccaneers continues to be a topic

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fall Short in 27-17 Preseason Opener Against Pittsburgh Steelers
August 11th, 2023  – Baker Mayfield runs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense against the Pittsburgh Steelers  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. FL – Kyle Zedacker /Tampa Bay Buccaneers

of intense scrutiny, as Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask vie for the coveted starting position. Mayfield, who started the game, displayed sharper performance compared to Trask. Mayfield’s accuracy and control were evident as he completed eight of nine passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, culminating in an impressive passer rating of 132.9.

“[Mayfield] was composed, he did a good job of running the offense,” said Head Coach Todd Bowles. “He made the plays he was supposed to make. I’m satisfied.”

Trask, on the other hand, entered the game later in the first half and played through the third quarter. While he managed to complete six of ten passes for 99 yards, an interception marred his performance. Coach Todd Bowles, however, refrained from drawing conclusions, acknowledging the complexity of assessing player performances in preseason outings characterized by limited playtime for starters and extended opportunities for backups and aspiring young talents aiming to secure spots on the final roster.

“They both played with the same offensive line, so you evaluate them accordingly,” said Bowles. “I thought Kyle made some good throws as well and he commanded the offense just the same. They both had the same type of plays, they both had the same guys in there, wide receivers and offensive line-wise, so we’ll continue that next week.”

The Buccaneers’ offense struggled to maintain consistent drives throughout the game, culminating in a total of 322 yards. This outcome was anticipated, given that the coaching staff chose to rest 19 players, including many of the team’s core starters, on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Prominent names like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Lavonte David were notably absent.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fall Short in 27-17 Preseason Opener Against Pittsburgh Steelers

Despite the challenges, the Buccaneers’ defense managed to make key plays, including interceptions by second-year players cornerback Zyon McCollum and linebacker J.R. Russell. However, there were evident shortcomings in tackling, leading to significant plays such as a 67-yard touchdown pass from Steelers’ third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph to wide receiver Calvin Austin.

Coach Bowles emphasized the need for improvement in tackling technique, particularly among the younger members of the team. The defense’s mixed performance was underscored by an 83-yard touchdown drive by the Steelers on their opening possession, featuring a 33-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver George Pickens, highlighted by a series of missed tackles.

As the Buccaneers look to refine their strategies and evaluate their roster, Coach Bowles acknowledged the importance of preseason games for assessing the performance of younger players. Despite the 27-17 loss, the game offered valuable insights into the team’s strengths and areas for improvement.

“That’s the big thing, the penalties,” said Bowles. “We talk about in practice. We only had 12 drives, so when you get 12 penalties that kind of negates everything. We’ve got to be better at that and more disciplined.”

“[The] young guys need a lot work,” said Bowles. “The ball cannot go over your head. [We were] sloppy, especially on the first drive. Check-downs shouldn’t go for 10, 12, 18 yards. I thought it was sloppy and guys just leaving their feet too early. We need a lot of tackling work.”

The Buccaneers will undoubtedly focus on refining their gameplay, ironing out penalties – which amounted to 12 for 127 yards – and honing their tackling techniques as they progress through the preseason. The loss against the Steelers serves as a starting point for the Buccaneers’ journey towards fine-tuning their roster and gearing up for a promising regular season ahead.

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