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Tim Benz: 4 simple thoughts on Steelers’ win over Bucs | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: 4 simple thoughts on Steelers’ win over Bucs

Tim Benz
| Tuesday, September 25, 2018 6:27 a.m
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Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Joe Haden reacts after a third-down stand against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 24, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gets some protection from offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva as he throws to an open receiver during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 24, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

The Steelers offense did everything it could to win in the first half. The Steelers defense did everything it could to keep it close in the second half. The Steelers special teams did everything they could to give it away throughout the game.

And the officials did everything they could to make themselves the story.

That’s the quickest way to sum up the Steelers 30-27 victory in Tampa. Honestly, those four thoughts tell the story. Yet so much more happened below the surface, it’d be doing the game an injustice to leave the analysis at that.

I’d also be coming up woefully short of my word count. So let’s expand, shall we?


Offense

Ben Roethlisberger and Co. got off to their typical horrid start, with a three-and-out followed by an interception. From there, it was a very good performance, especially considering that the offensive line was blocking without Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro. B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler were part of an offense that totaled 413 yards and three touchdowns.

The Steelers should’ve been up 34-27 in the waning minutes. But Chris Boswell’s two missed kicks prevented that from happening.

More on that later.

Roethlisberger rebounded from that rocky start to be excellent the rest of the way. Of his last 33 passes, Big Ben completed 28 of them, including three touchdowns. None of his attempts were better than this one to JuJu Smith-Schuster late in the fourth quarter to effectively seal the game.

Vance McDonald’s stiff arm during this touchdown run while down 7-0 might have been the play to turn around the season.

Chris Conte was the one who got shoved down there. He’d later leave the game with an injured knee. I didn’t realize your pride was located in your knee.

Aside from McDonald, Smith-Schuster was great again. He popped off for 119 yards on five catches. He’s up to 27 receptions for 356 yards. That’s good for fourth in the league in catches and third behind New Orleans’ Michael Thomas and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans in yardage.

James Conner was over 4 yards per carry at 15 for 61. He should’ve gotten the ball more on the Steelers first two drives of the fourth quarter. However, it’s clear the Steelers don’t trust him late in games yet as they did Le’Veon Bell.



Defense

The defense was huge early, accounting for turnovers on four straight possessions including a pick-6 from Bud Dupree.

But just as it looked like Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was turning from “Fitzmagic” into “Fitztragic,” the Steelers let the Bucs off the mat. A 20-point halftime lead was whittled down to a field goal with Tampa getting the ball back at the 3:02 mark of the fourth quarter.

Suddenly, the Steelers found themselves unable to get off the field, allowing Fitzpatrick to rattle off 35 snaps en route to scoring drives on the team’s first three possessions of the second half. Meanwhile, the Steelers defense dropped a few chances at more Fitzpatrick interceptions.

In the end, though, the unit got off the field on a crucial third down before the two-minute warning, winning a key possession like the offense did late in the game.


Special teams

The Steelers’ special teams are a train wreck. There is no nice way to put it, nor should we look for one.

• The suddenly inept Chris Boswell missed an extra point and a field goal.

• They allowed a DeSean Jackson punt return for a score, but it was called back on a penalty.

• Danny Smith’s unit committed six penalties. They’ve been slapped for 12 on the season, for 130 yards.

That special teams’ penalty yardage total exceeds the entire penalty yardage total of the Patriots, Giants and Chargers.


The officials

Speaking of the officials, it was a Pete Morelli crew. So we knew disaster was looming. Pete and his pals got their much desired “Monday Night Football” face time, calling 26 penalties. Twenty-two of those flags were accepted.

Four of those flags were for illegal hits on the quarterback. It’s an awful rule, but the officials are still calling it too willingly.

For a moment, forget the dumb language regarding these borderline, ticky-tack, weak roughing-the-passer flags. If it’s a”judgment call” and the official’s “judgment” is that a flag wasn’t worthy, what’s the discipline against him if he doesn’t throw a flag?

And why is there discipline in the first place?

In other words, I’m asking, “So what if the officials ate a few of these 50-50 calls?” Because it is clear to me these officials are feeling extra motivated, encouraged and inspired to make those calls even if the quarterback was never at risk of injury.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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