Beware The Lowly, Embarrassed Bucs

TheSteelers haven't had the best of luck in recent years against teams they should beat. Will today be different?

The Steelers haven't exactly been "money in the bank" against teams they should've beaten the last couple of years.

And that might be all that gives the 0-3 Tampa Bay Bucs a chance this afternoon at Heinz Field.

Over the last two seasons, the Steelers have been favored by seven points or more six times. They won only three of them, and two of those three wins were against the Cleveland Browns.

So here come the Bucs off a 56-14 thrashing 10 days ago at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 2-1 after righting themselves from their own Thursday night embarrassment, and they appear to be on their way through an easy patch on their schedule.

An easy win today, right?

Of course not.

But the Bucs are obviously vulnerable.

"I have been through it, going into a new place and trying to change the atmosphere and the climate across the board," Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said of new Bucs Coach Lovie Smith's travails. "It’s a lot of work, and nobody is ever really comfortable with change. When you ask guys to change – there are young guys and veteran guys and it’s not always comfortable. There are some growing pains that come with that. But it looks like they have everybody on the same page and they are doing a good job selling the way they want to do things and how they want to play football down there."

Yet, the Bucs rank 30th on offense and 25th on defense. But they are getting healthy.

After missing two games with a sore knee, running back Doug Martin is probable today. He'll team with Bobby Rainey (5.3 ypc.) for a solid ground game.

And defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is probable after a hand injury cost him a game. The first-team All-Pro had 9.5 sacks last season.

Quarterback Josh McCown is doubtful with a thumb injury, and that might be good news for the Bucs, because it moved second-year man Mike Glennon back into the lineup.

Glennon replaced MCown last week and completed 17 of 24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Last season he led all rookies with a QB rating of 83.9, and was also the NFL's rookie of the month in November.

But the 6-7 passer was also sacked 40 times, or only twice fewer than Ben Roethlisberger in 168 fewer dropbacks.

"He's real tall," said Steelers linebacker Vince Williams, who played against Glennon twice in college. "He has a strong arm, likes to throw the ball down the field."

Down the field, Glennon will find two receivers -- Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans -- who are nearly as tall as him. The pair has caught 23 catches this season.

So the key for the Steelers will be to get to Glennon first.

"Once you got pressure on him it kind of shook him up a little bit," said Steelers rookie defensive tackle Daniel McCullers. "That's how we got that win when I was at Tennessee."

That's how Williams' Florida State team beat Glennon's North Carolina State team in 2011.

"We killed him," Williams said. "We had a lot of pressure on him. We had a lot of sacks."

Glennon came back to lead N.C. State to a win over FSU the following year as he built himself into a third-round pick, the third QB drafted in 2013. He's the guy upon whom Tampa has pinned its hopes after last Thursday's embarrassment.

"The city wants to see what we’re capable of doing and how we’re going to bounce back," said Glennon. "It’s a big game for us, it’s a big game for our city, big game for our fans and we’re looking forward to it (and) getting up to Pittsburgh and competing up there."

Defensively, the Bucs rely on their two All-Pros, McCoy and weak-side linebacker Lavonte David.

"He's disruptive and quick," Haley said of David. "They scheme him at times to try to create positive matchups for him."

David, in his first two seasons in the league, made 283 tackles with nine sacks and six interceptions. By comparison, Luke Kuechly's two-year numbers were 320-3-6; Ray Lewis' were 294-6.5-2.

Not a bad start for the 233-pound David.

"He's not as little as you think," said Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. "He's really active. He runs around blocks. He makes big-time hits. I like him as a linebacker."

Pouncey was asked how David compares with Kuechly, against whom Pouncey had success last Sunday.

"Lavonte is a little bit more physical," Pouncey said. "He'll take on some blocks sometimes and Kuechly tries to get around them and make a lot of plays."

Also on the Bucs' side today are the recent spate of Steelers injuries. New to the starting lineup this week will be Arthur Moats for ROLB Jarvis Jones, Sean Spence for WILB Ryan Shazier, and William Gay for RCB Ike Taylor.

"It’s basically one-fourth of your starting lineup," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "It won’t be the only game during the season that this situation will arise. I’m sure of that. We try to prepare for this starting at coaching sessions and up into training camp. We try to practice for plan B and plan C. Many games I’ve been a part of, you have to go to plan B, C and D. So at least we’ve been through the scenario (second half last week). I thought our guys did a good job of staying focused. We gave up some plays later in the game, but we were able to get off the field and keep the score relatively low."

But what about the recent struggles against teams they should beat?

In the last two seasons, the Steelers lost to the Tennessee Titans twice and the San Diego Chargers. And they only beat 13.5-pound underdog Kansas City by three points in 2012.

"We just have to go out and approach each game like it’s the biggest one of the year and that it’s the best opponent that we’re going to face in the year," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "That’s what we’re going to do this week."


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