It was no surprise that the Buccaneers lost to the Steelers on Sunday, but the way in which they lost should be disturbing for anyone who thought Tampa Bay was poised to compete for a playoff spot.
With 35-year-old QB Charlie Batch making his first start since 2007 — and only his fifth start since '02 — the Bucs were handled with ease, 38-13. After feasting on the incompetent offenses of the Browns and Panthers in its first two games, Raheem Morris' defense gave up three Batch touchdown passes in the first half, falling behind 28-6 at the break. Pittsburgh's running game picked it up after that, as RB Rashard Mendenhall gained 103 of his 143 yards in the second half.
It was clear that the team missed suspended FS Tanard Jackson, as his replacement, rookie seventh-round pick Cody Grimm, missed multiple tackles and was beaten in coverage on WR Mike Wallace's first touchdown, but several other Bucs defenders had bad games, too.
The PFW Spin
We suspected that the Bucs' offense would have a rough day against one of the best defenses in the league, but Tampa Bay's defense was thought to be more capable. It's not as if it was lining up against an elite offense on Sunday.
MLB Barrett Ruud made nine tackles, but he didn't play up to his potential. The Bucs didn't have a sack and while DE Kyle Moore was credited with the only hit on Batch all afternoon, he lost most of his battles against veteran ORT Flozell Adams. Rookie DT Gerald McCoy and Brian Price didn't even make it on the stat sheet, failing to register a tackle in a game in which Pittsburgh ran the ball 32 times.
The Bucs will head into a Week Four bye facing the reality many people already understood. This team is not ready to compete with teams like the Steelers, even when they're starting a backup at quarterback.
Morris said he might consider going with a rotation at safety when the Bucs return to play the Bengals in Week Five, but that adjustment alone won't cure Tampa Bay's defensive problems.