Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:02 PM
MNF - Steelers at Buccaneers
The Steelers (0-1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) haven’t gone winless through the first three weeks of the season since starting 0-3 in 2013. That Pittsburgh team didn’t pick up its first victory until Week 6 as it managed to finish at 8-8 that season. The Steelers squandered a 21-7 lead to the Browns in Week 1 before finishing in a tie, while erasing a 21-0 deficit to even things up with the Chiefs last week. Pittsburgh couldn’t get over the hump as the Steelers fell, 42-37 as four-point favorites.
Running back Le’Veon Bell sat out for the second straight week as he continues to hold out, while James Conner couldn’t duplicate his 135 yard performance in Week 1 by rushing for only 17 yards against Kansas City. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished with 452 yards passing and three touchdowns, as all three touchdown tosses came in the first half. However, the Steelers lost their first home opener since that fateful start of 2013 as Pittsburgh allowed at least 42 points in consecutive games at Heinz Field going back to the 45-42 shootout loss to the Jaguars in the AFC divisional round in January.
The Buccaneers (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) weren’t expected to do much offensively in the first two weeks as starting quarterback Jameis Winston began a three-game suspension. However, the Harvard man came to the rescue as veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick diced up a pair of playoff teams in the first two weeks. After lighting up the Saints for 417 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-40 opening week shocker, Fitzpatrick put an encore in the home opener against the defending champion Eagles.
Fitzpatrick connected with speedster DeSean Jackson on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of scrimmage, while also hooking up with tight end O.J. Howard on another 75-yard scoring connection. The Bucs jumped out to a 27-7 advantage before holding on for a 27-21 win over Philadelphia to cash as three-point underdogs. Fitzpatrick eclipsed the 400-yard mark for the second straight week by throwing for 402 and four more touchdowns, as he leads the league in passing yards and is second in touchdown passes behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
HOME LOSS BOUNCE-BACK
The Steelers have done a solid job over the years coming off a home loss, owning an 8-1 record since 2013 in this situation. Last season, Pittsburgh lost twice at home in the regular season, falling to Jacksonville and the disputed finish to New England. In each instance, the Steelers rebounded with a win at Kansas City and at Houston, while the only loss in the situation came in 2016 at Baltimore following a home defeat to New England. From a totals standpoint, the UNDER has hit five straight times when the Steelers play on the road following a home defeat dating back to 2015.
BARKING ‘DOGS AT THE PIRATE SHIP
Although Tampa Bay is a slight underdog on Monday night, the Bucs have taken care of business when receiving points at Raymond James Stadium. In the last six instances 2016, the Bucs are 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS as a home underdog, coming off last week’s mild upset of the Eagles. Last season, Tampa Bay lost in close contests to the Patriots and Falcons, but managed a cover as seven-point underdogs in a 27-24 defeat to Atlanta.
The last time these teams met up back in 2014 at Heinz Field, as the Buccaneers picked up a 27-24 triumph as seven-point underdogs. Tampa Bay entered the contest at 0-3 and ultimately finished that season at 2-14, but came out on top thanks to a Mike Glennon five-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with seven seconds remaining. Roethlisberger hooked up with Antonio Brown for a pair of touchdown connections, but Pittsburgh suffered its first loss to Tampa Bay since 1998.
In the previous matchup at Raymond James Stadium in 2010 (also in Week 3), the Steelers cruised past the Bucs, 38-13 as 2 ½-point favorites. Roethlisberger was in the midst of a four-game suspension as Charlie Batch threw three touchdown passes, while Pittsburgh scored three touchdowns in the second quarter.
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
The Steelers have won four consecutive Monday night games (not including a Christmas Day victory at Houston last season) since 2014. The last three instances have come on the road at the Chargers (2015), Redskins (2016), and Bengals (2017), but failed to cover at Cincinnati in a 23-20 win as 4 ½-point favorites.
Tampa Bay has been showcased on Monday night football three times since 2013, all in the underdog role. In all three instances, the Bucs have covered, while picking up outright victories over Miami in 2013 and Carolina in 2016.
VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson says that the Buccaneers are in a good spot for now, but the road doesn’t ease up, “Needless to say Fitzpatrick will likely maintain the starting role past Winston’s suspension, but it is too soon to count Tampa Bay as a serious NFC championship threat. The division is stacked with three other viable playoff threats and the schedule remains difficult with road games in Chicago and Atlanta surrounding a Week 5 bye week.”
Will there be a bunch of points scored since the two teams have combined for a 3-1 OVER record? “While the attention will be on the offenses, the defenses have surrendered big numbers as well, both in the bottom eight of the league in total defense and in the bottom six of scoring defense. One big disparity is Tampa Bay featuring currently one of the best run defenses in the NFL, allowing just 67 rushing yards per game while Pittsburgh ranks 30th allowing 152 rushing yards per game. It seems likely that over time those numbers will adjust towards the middle as the Steelers have mostly played from behind while the Buccaneers have mostly played with a lead so far this season,” Nelson notes.
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook opened the Steelers as a three-point road favorite, but that number has dipped down to 1 ½ at most books. Due to the numbers put up by Fitzpatrick and Roethlisberger through two weeks, the total sits between 53 ½ and 54 at most spots. The Steelers last saw a road total of 50 or above in the 2015 season opener at New England in which it lost, 28-21. Under Dirk Koetter, the Bucs are 3-1 to the UNDER on totals of 50 or higher with the lone OVER hitting in Week 1 at New Orleans.
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