Steelers' surprise win over Buccaneers proves unpredictability of NFL
In the latest installment of the whacky, unpredictable world of the NFL, the Steelers found a way to beat their long-time nemesis and end a four-game losing streak despite being a double-digit underdog and playing without 75% of their starting secondary.

And in a game that had more heroes than a Marvel comic book, the player who came to the rescue was none other than Mitch Trubisky, the quarterback who was unceremoniously dumped just two weeks ago.

All Trubisky did was come off the bench when Kenny Pickett sustained a concussion in the third quarter and made any number of big plays to lead the Steelers to an improbable 20-18 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. And he did it by being more free-wheeling and attacking than when he started the first four games of the season. Or so it appeared. "It just felt good today," Trubisky said. "I was ready to go, and I was trying to make plays and go out and win the game."

And he did just that, completing 9 of 12 passes for 144 yards, converting 5 of 7 third-down opportunities and throwing a 6-yard touchdown to Chase Claypool - the first touchdown reception by a wide receiver this season. That was set up by a 45-yard catch-and-run to rookie Connor Heyward on 3rd-and-6.

Even more important, he helped the Steelers run off the final 4:38 with a pair of big completions to Claypool - a 17-yarder on 3rd-and-15 and a 26-yarder on 3rd-and-11. That's something the Steelers were unable to do in their first five games. "I can't speak enough how Mitch stepped up in the moment," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "We needed a guy to step up and play quarterback for us, and he did that."

But it wasn't just Trubisky. The player who prevented the Buccaneers from tying the game was inside linebacker Devin Bush, who broke up Tom Brady's two-point pass for wide receiver Chris Godwin after an 11-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Fournette made it 20-18 with 4:38 remaining.

That allowed the Steelers (2-4) to end their four-game losing streak, take some of the sting off their embarrassing performance in Buffalo and, incredibly, move them a game from first place in the AFC North.

"The win was much needed," running back Najee Harris said. "For us to win at home, especially against that type of team, a Super Bowl team, it shows how good we can be."

Maybe things are starting to look up for the Steelers. They head to Miami to play the Dolphins (3-3), who have lost three in a row after an impressive start. "It hasn't been easy," Heyward said. "But that doesn't absolve us of our record. This is something we have to keep working toward."

There is always a little extra satisfaction when the victory comes against Brady, who has deprived the Steelers of three additional trips to the Super Bowl during his 23-year NFL career.

But Brady played as though he had a little too much fun at Robert Kraft's wedding Friday night in New York, failing to attack downfield against a depleted Steelers secondary that was missing four of the top five players. During the game, he was caught on TV microphones ripping into his offensive line on the sideline, telling them to get their "[bleeping] act together."

Maybe that was because the Steelers sacked him twice, hit him on five other occasions and stuffed his running game in a number of short-yardage situations. The Steelers stopped the Bucs eight times for zero or negative yards, including stuffing Brady on a 3rd-and-1 sneak at the Steelers 29.

Tampa Bay finished with 75 yards on 26 carries, a stout performance from a Steelers run defense that ranked 22nd in the league and allowed an average per carry of 4.3 yards. "I thought we did a really good job of letting our disguises work for us," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We didn't have a big menu (of plays) because we can't have a big menu. We've got some young guys and inexperienced guys playing. So, whatever we had, we had to dress it up."

Brady completed 25 of 40 attempts for 243 yards and delivered the only touchdown on an 11-yard pass to Fournette, who ran through four defenders to cut the lead to two. But Bush came up with the big pass breakup on the two-point conversion and Trubisky did the rest. His third-down completions to Claypool and back-to-back runs for 12 yards on the ensuing possession cemented a victory that was every bit a case of personal retribution.

"I try to carry the same mentality when I go into the game," Trubisky said. "Just play each play as its own play. I liked our aggressive mindset in the second half and especially when I came in. I just wanted to continue to carry that. I know we needed to score to stay out in front and win that game. It was nice to stay on the field and finish that two-minute [drill] and get those victory kneels in."

Gerry Dulac, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, published 17 October 2022