The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Monday Night Football” in Week 3, but unfortunately for them FitzMagic failed to show up in time for a win.
The Steelers jumped out to a 30-10 halftime lead, and while the Bucs did make a game of it in the second half, it was too little, too late.
These are the biggest winners and losers from the action Monday night.
Winner: Big Ben was on fire
When Ben Roethlisberger threw an early interception, it seemed like he might be due for one of his famous road blowup games. Then he quickly turned things around and had a fabulous night shredding Tampa Bay’s squishy secondary.
Roethlisberger distributed the ball to seven different pass catchers, completing 30-of-38 passes for 353 yards with three touchdowns and the one interception.
The Steelers had absolutely no success on the ground until the end, gaining a grand total of three first downs rushing the ball. Without that balance, many quarterbacks would struggle. Instead, Big Ben put the offense on his shoulders and engineered a nearly unstoppable attack.
Loser: Where in the world was DeSean Jackson?
The first two weeks of the season saw DeSean Jackson turning back the clock in a big way. He entered Monday night’s game with nine receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
That explosive element just wasn’t there on Monday night. Jackson was held without a catch in the first half, and he finished with just three receptions for 37 yards.
Needless to say, it was a very disappointing performance, both for the Bucs and for fantasy football owners who excitedly inserted Jackson into their starting lineups hoping for another monster game.
Winner: Jon Bostic had himself a NIGHT
Jon Bostic was brought in to give the defense some teeth in the middle and to somewhat replace Ryan Shazier, who remains out of football recovering from his spinal cord injury.
The Steelers have been pretty pleased with the veteran linebacker this year, and Monday night was a big example why. Bostic had six solo tackles, including two for a loss. He also through with a crucial sack and two pass deflections, one of which turned into a red-zone interception.
Pittsburgh’s defense was in the Tampa Bay backfield all night long forcing mistakes, and Bostic was a big part of that effort.
Loser: Bucs just made too many mistakes
Coming into Week 2, no quarterback in the league piled up more yardage than Ryan Fitzpatrick. He continued his bombs-away approach to quarterbacking against Pittsburgh and had another huge statistical game.
Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick also made some key mistakes. He threw three interceptions in the first half, with two of them being of the “oh my God why did he throw that?” variety. This included a truly awful decision, backed up into his own end zone, which resulted in a pick-six for Bud Dupree.
Receiver Chris Godwin also turned the ball over on a fumble, which led to a touchdown for the Steelers. All told, Pittsburgh scored 14 points on Tampa Bay turnovers, which proved to be much more than the difference in the game.
Winner: Vance McDonald with the stiff-arm heard ’round the world
If only for one single moment, Vance McDonald deserves a spot on the winner’s side of this recap. During the first quarter, the Steelers down by a touchdown, McDonald turned the game on its head.
Catching a pass near the left sideline, he turned upfield and then put Bucs safety Chris Conte in the DIRT with a legendary stiff-arm that had social media absolutely buzzing. After putting Conte out of his misery, he romped the rest of the way to the end zone on what was a 75-yard, game-changing play.
McDonald wasn’t done there, either. He finished the night with four catches for 112 yards, and of course the touchdown.
Loser: Jameis Winston will have to play second fiddle
Though Fitzpatrick wasn’t as sharp as he was during the first two games, he’s done something in the first three games that no quarterback in the history of the league can match.
With his 411 passing yards Monday night, Fitzpatrick became the first quarterback to hit at least 400 yards in three consecutive games.
It had previously been reported that Fitzpatrick was going to remain the starter if he remained hot. He certainly did that. His teammates are all aboard the FitzMagic train, and the Bucs would be playing with fire to bench him at this time.
That’s bad, bad news for Jameis Winston, who’ll have to watch games from the sideline for the foreseeable future.
Winner: JuJu Smith-Schuster becoming Pittsburgh’s biggest weapon
Heading into Week 3, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster both had 18 catches, but it was the second-year receiver who led the team with 240 yards (compared to Brown’s 160). And last weekend, Smith-Schuster was targeted more than Brown.
Staying with that trend, Smith-Schuster continued to be Big Ben’s go-to receiver. He was targeted a total of 11 times, hauling in nine receptions for 116 yards. Brown had his moments, including a very nice touchdown in the first half. But he was much quieter in the second half and finished with six catches for 50 yards.
Chances are, this trend won’t last all season long. But it’s a notable one early in the 2018 campaign that we’ll be keeping an eye on. And at the very least, it’s clear the Steelers have one of the best receiver duos in the NFL.
Loser: Too many penalties
It’s never fun when officials take the game over. That’s what happened on Monday night, as these two teams were hit with a combined 22 accepted penalties for a staggering 235 yards. One of those penalties by Tampa Bay negated what would have been a DeSean Jackson punt return touchdown.
A few of the flags we saw were a continuation of the distressing trend in which defenders are being hit with penalties for simply tackling the quarterback. However, most of the calls were earned. Undisciplined play was prevalent, and while fans were frustrated with the officials, it’s the players who continued to make mental mistakes.