"Jon Gruden needs to be much more patient with his running game. The Bucs were averaging 5.3 yards per carry against Pittsburgh with Mike Alstott averaging 5.6 yards per carry and Michael Pittman averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Tampa Bay only rushed for 74 yards against Pittsburgh, but could have easily had over 100 if more running plays were called. Sure Pittsburgh jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but that was early in the first quarter and the Bucs still had time to keep the running game in as part of their offense. The distressing thing is that Mike Alstott rips off an 18-yard run and then doesn't see the ball again for six more plays. I'd love to see Gruden allow these backs to get into a rhythm with more instances of back-to-back carries."
"Yep. Cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly looked really miffed about not making the Pro Bowl this year. They really took on that 'I'll show them' attitude. Did you see that? Did you see that in between giving up 127 yards in big chunks to Plaxico Burress and 78 yards on six catches to Hines Ward?"
"Burress was absolutely sensational against the Bucs. I remember before the 2000 NFL Draft warring it out on the old BucMag.com message boards about how Burress would be a much better prospect than Florida State's Peter Warrick, who I thought was nothing more than a Desmond Howard wannabe. But all of the Seminoles fan were bashing Burress and saying how he was a punk and that Warrick was the man. Folks, Plaxico Burress is 10 times the receiver Peter Warrick is and will ever be."
"Here's an interesting stat for you. The Bucs' secondary has not had an interception in the last four games -- at New Orleans, Atlanta, at Detroit and Pittsburgh. That's quite a dry spell, and a key reason why the Bucs went 2-2 in that stretch and could easily have gone 1-3 if not for Martin Gramatica's late game heroics at Detroit."
"Here's another interesting stat for you. Tampa Bay's alleged Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp has not had a sack since the first play of the Carolina Panthers game in Charlotte. This guy is paid millions of dollars to rush the passer and he didn't even get close enough to Tommy Maddox to see the No. 11 on his chest. Sapp's been stuck on 7.5 sacks since October and I'm convinced that this guy is not a big-time player anymore. There used to be days where if there was a big game, you could expect Sapp to be dominant. Those days have come and gone. To face only one offensive lineman against Pittsburgh the entire game and record one tackle in one of the biggest games of the year is a joke. Sapp wasn't double-teamed and became invisible while Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton had two key forced fumbles and a sack. It must be something with Pennsylvania teams, because whenever the Bucs play Pittsburgh or Philadelphia Sapp hardly shows up on the stat sheet. He doesn't back up all his talk and the media would be wise to interview more productive players instead of devoting so much time to this windbag."
"I was shocked to see how horrible Shaun King looked against Pittsburgh. A lot of his throws were nowhere near the receivers which tells me that he wasn't as prepared as he should have been. There was a lot of miscommunication going on. I was even more shocked to see how well Rob Johnson performed against the Steelers. He led the Bucs on a touchdown drive for the first time all season and should have led them on another one if right guard Cosey Coleman hadn't let Casey Hampton blow by for a critical sack and forced fumble on the Pittsburgh 3. Johnson was accurate, completing 12-of-18 of his passes for 159 yards, but took too many sacks, which has always been the knock on this guy. Who starts at Chicago? Hopefully, Brad Johnson. We saw first hand how truly valuable this guy is to the offense."
"With homefield advantage going to Philadelphia, the Bucs are still hoping to get a first-round bye in the playoffs. They'll have to win at Chicago and hope that the Jets knock off the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in New York. I wonder how many encouraging phone calls former Bucs defensive backs coach Herman Edwards will be getting this week from Tampa Bay?"
LEO HAGGERTY – Pewter Report Managing Editor:
"It's obvious after the Steeler debacle that the Bucs are not a come-from-behind team against a playoff-caliber opponent. I'm not talking about a seven or 10-point deficit, but the 17-0 hole that the Buccaneers dug was a grave that they couldn't get out of. The Pewter Pirates do not have the offensive personnel to get back into a game quickly. They have no game breakers from a speed standpoint so they have to matriculate the football methodically down the field with time consuming drives. Tampa Bay must get a lead or stay within 10 points or its turn out the lights because the party is over."
"I had a hard time understanding the personnel schemes tonight especially after the Bucs got down 17-0. On too many occasions the Bucs were going with their two-back and/or two-tight end packages on second and third down long yardage situations. The Steelers defense saw this and pressed the Bucs receivers because they knew that, with their pass rush, the Buccaneers quarterback would have to throw early. There was no threat of a deep ball so Tampa Bay was stymied offensively all night long. The Pewter Pirates needed to scrap the tight ends and go with their four and five wide out packages to expand the zones or take advantage of size mismatches as the Steelers did."
"The Bucs were lucky that Brad Johnson didn't play or he would have been sacked about a dozen times or, worse, seriously injured. The one telling fact that came through from tonight's contest wasn't that the Pittsburgh Steelers were a better football team than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were. It was that the Pewter Pirates are going nowhere fast unless No. 14 is at the helm. End of story."
JIM FLYNN – Pewter Report Assistant Editor:
"Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice called quarterback Brad Johnson the team's MVP last week after Johnson was snubbed for the Pro Bowl. After watching backup quarterbacks Shaun King and Rob Johnson ‘try' to run the offense, I think we know why Rice and Co. hold Brad Johnson in such high regard. Brad Johnson couldn't start due to a lower back contusion, which prompted the team to start King. Tampa Bay's offense was out of sync against Pittsburgh, which was a direct reflection of King's play. King hadn't started a game since 2000 and it certainly looked like it. His interception in the first quarter, which was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by Chad Scott, basically put the game away just minutes after it had started. Was it a lot to ask of King to come in and win this game? Absolutely. Should we have expected this poor of a performance from King? Absolutely not."
"Did anyone really think Rob Johnson was going to lead the Bucs back to win this game after he replaced King midway through the third quarter? King looked bad, but Rob Johnson wasn't much better. King was sacked one time in 31/2 quarters. Rob Johnson was sacked three times on his first series of the game and five overall. He simply takes too many sacks, which hindered a couple of the long drives that he actually helped produce."
"As bad as the Bucs played on Monday night, if they hadn't turned the ball over twice inside Pittsburgh's 5-yard line, the Pewter Pirates would have had an excellent shot of winning this game."
"While Tampa Bay's defense only surrendered 10 points on Monday night, their inability to stop Pittsburgh's potent offensive attack in the first quarter put the team in a hole it couldn't get out of. The Bucs allowed the Steelers to convert 50 percent of its third downs and QB Tommy Maddox completed 17-of-23 passes for 236 yards and he tossed one touchdown against the league's No. 1 ranked pass defense. The reason Maddox was able to pick apart Tampa Bay's secondary was because the Bucs' defensive line couldn't sustain a pass rush. Where has Warren Sapp been? He recorded one tackle against the Steelers and he hasn't recorded a sack since October 27."
"I couldn't help but admire the way Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey decided to come out and attack Tampa Bay's defense. Mularkey had the Bucs' defense completely off balance for the first half of the game and his trickery was something to watch. The smartest thing Mularkey did was attack Tampa Bay's defense downfield, which Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Co. apparently weren't expecting. Steelers wide receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress combined for 11 receptions for 205 yards on Monday night."
"Tampa Bay is 11-4 and they will have at least one home playoff game, but they're backpedaling into the playoffs, which is not what championship teams do. The Bucs nearly lost to Detroit last Sunday in what was one of the team's poorest performances of the season and Tampa Bay's outing against Pittsburgh was even worse. There's one game remaining in the regular season – at Chicago. The temperatures will be below 40 degrees and Tampa Bay will need to win this game in order to have a shot at receiving a bye week in the playoffs. If the Bucs lose to the Bears, don't count on Tampa Bay making more than a cameo appearance in the playoffs."
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