(SportsNetwork.com) – Lovie Smith knew it was a work in progress.
What the former NFC champion coach might not have realized upon signing on in
Tampa Bay, however, was just how much work would be needed to attain such
Smith and the Buccaneers head to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in the aftermath of
a 54-16 Week 3 debacle in Atlanta, which equaled the third-worst defeat in
franchise history and found them on the wrong ends of better than two-to-one
deficits in both total yardage (488-217) and first downs (26-10).
Oh, and they committed five turnovers, too, in falling to 0-3 on the season.
“When you get beat that bad, you need to make changes,” Smith said. “Maybe
that’s personnel, maybe it’s not. You’re looking at all areas when you feel
like you need to go another direction.”
Smith was non-committal on a starting quarterback against the Steelers after
youngster Mike Glennon replaced Josh McCown last week, when the veteran
suffered a sprained thumb on his right hand following five completions in 12
throws for 58 yards and an interception against Atlanta.
McCown did not practice on Wednesday.
Glennon started 13 games as a rookie last season, winning four, while throwing
19 touchdown passes against nine interceptions. He was 17-of-24 for 121 yards
and a TD after subbing in against the Falcons.
The upheaval extends to the offensive coaching staff, where coordinator Jeff
Tedford is on an indefinite leave of absence. He’s been part-time since
undergoing a medical procedure in late August, and Smith, who said there’s no
timetable for a return, indicated that the staff will collectively fill the
Running back Doug Martin was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice after
missing two straight games with a knee injury. He was held to just nine yards
on nine carries in a Week 1 loss to Carolina.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was a limited participant in practice, but is
also expected to return after a hand injury kept him on the sidelines for the
last two weeks.
“Those guys will eventually help us,” Smith said. “That’s why we’re optimistic
things are going to change, because we don’t have those players out for
the season. They’ll all be coming back, so reinforcements are on the way.”
Pittsburgh, which has won eight of nine meetings between the teams since they
first met in 1976, enters the week with the AFC’s second-most prolific offense
(419.3 yards per game) after rolling up 454 yards in an 18-point Sunday night
road win against the Panthers.
The Steelers went from Week 1 to more than halfway through Week 3 without an
offensive touchdown, but erupted for four scores in the final 27 minutes in
Carolina. Two Pittsburgh rushers – Le’Veon Bell (147) and LeGarrette Blount
(118) – went for triple-digit yardage, the first time the franchise had
managed that feat since 1986.
“That’s awesome,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I’m sure that Steeler
fans back home are going crazy because we ran the ball for 100 and had two
guys do it. That’s just awesome. I think it shows what we can do if we put our
minds to it.”
Roethlisberger completed all but eight of 30 passes for 196 yards and two
touchdowns, and continued an early-season bond with wide receiver Antonio
Brown that’s already yielded 22 receptions for 296 yards. Brown is fifth in
the league in those categories this season alone, and is second in the NFL in
catches and yards over the last 19 games.
On defense, the Steelers will be without rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier this
week thanks to a sprained right knee, while second-year man Jarvis Jones is
out for at least eight weeks with a broken wrist.
Cornerback Ike Taylor, who arrived in Pittsburgh in 2003, is also gone with a
broken right forearm.
Veteran stalwart James Harrison, released after the 2012 season, was re-signed
on Tuesday to provide depth. He had two sacks in 15 games for the Cincinnati
Bengals last year. Sean Spence and Arthur Moats, who combined for six tackles
and a sack against Carolina, are expected to get their first 2014 starts in
place of Shazier and Jones.
Moats, who had the sack, had not recorded one since he was with Buffalo in
“As a competitor,” he said, “you want to go in there when the game is heated
like that and it’s still a meaningful game.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Back to Big Numbers
Martin was a 1,400-plus yard revelation for the Bucs in 2012, but has played
in just seven games since with myriad injuries. If he’s indeed ready to go on
Sunday, he could provide instant issues for a Steelers defense that’s been
pushed around for 5.5 yards per carry by opposition running backs through
three games. If Martin is less than 100 percent, it’s Bobby Rainey, who’s
averaged 5.3 yards on 37 carries.
Ready for Primetime?
The Bucs allowed no more than 92 yards to any one receiver through initial
losses to Carolina and St. Louis, which came by a total of eight points. But
when faced with a premier QB/WR combination last week against the Falcons,
they saw Julio Jones catch nine Matt Ryan passes for 161 yards and two
touchdowns. It’s no less daunting a task stopping Roethlisberger and Brown
The Steelers of 2014 may or may not be close to the Steelers of recent Mike
Tomlin Era vintage. But a meeting with a stumbling 0-3 team on home turf after
returning from a convincing road win is about as ideal a mixture as could be
concocted to produce another dose of success.
Unless the Bucs come up with an answer to Brown in the air and Bell/Blount on
the ground, it could be another long afternoon.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Steelers 30, Bucs 17