National Football League
Preview
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay
When: 8:15 PM ET, Monday, September 24, 2018
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

It hardly has been a smooth start for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have yet to crack the win column and been embroiled in controversy swirling around the team's top offensive playmakers. The Steelers will face a red-hot quarterback for the second time in as many weeks when they visit Ryan Fitzpatrick and the undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

Star running back Le'Veon Bell continues to be a holdout for Pittsburgh while All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown caused a stir for being a no-show one day after last week's 42-37 home loss to Kansas City. "It has to die," Steelers guard Ramon Foster told reporters regarding the off-field distractions. "Way too much stuff going on not to learn from this. Nobody is invincible. Nobody is shunned from any bad things happening, whether that's on the field or off the field." The surprising Buccaneers already have knocked off a pair of 2017 playoff teams behind fill-in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is the first player to open the season with consecutive 400-yard, four-touchdown performances. "His numbers are off the charts," Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter told reporters. "So how would you expect everybody to respond? Of course, our team is playing well. They're doing something not many thought they could."

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Steelers -1.5. O/U: 53.5

ABOUT THE STEELERS (0-1-1): Despite the absence of Bell and Brown's brief walkout, leading to disciplinary action from coach Mike Tomlin, Pittburgh's biggest issues are on the other side of the ball. After failing to protect a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead en route to a tie at Cleveland in the season opener, the Steelers were carved up by Kansas City and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 326 yards and six touchdowns in Sunday's shootout. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rebounded from a five-turnover debacle in Week 1 by throwing for 452 yards and three scores last weekend - with JuJu Smith-Schuster hauling in 13 passes for 121 yards and a TD. Running back James Conner was limited to 17 yards on eight carries last week after rumbling for 135 and two touchdowns in Week 1.

ABOUT THE BUCCANEEERS (2-0): Fitzpatrick was supposed to simply mind the store while starting quarterback Jameis Winston was serving a three-game suspension to open the season, but after throwing for eight touchdowns and a league-high 819 yards, the job is his - for now. "With the way the team is rallying behind him and just playing lights-out football, you have to kind of honor it," wideout DeSean Jackson, who has nine receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns through two games, told reporters. "You can't take the hot man out. You got the hot fire right now." Mike Evans has been the favorite target of Fitzpatrick with 17 catches for 230 yards and two scores. Tampa Bay's defense received a boost when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Brent Grimes were full participants in Friday's practice.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Fitzpatrick is bidding to become the first QB in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards in three straight games.

2. Brown, who made nine catches in each of the first two contests, has 70 receptions and seven TDs in his last eight games versus NFC foes.

3. Tampa Bay rookie DT Vita Vea, the team's first-round draft pick, could make his NFL debut.

PREDICTION: Steelers 30, Buccaneers 26
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
Pittsburgh 0-1-1 L1 29.0 31.5 0-1 0-0-1 0-1-1 0-0 - - 0-1-1
Tampa Bay 2-0 W2 37.5 30.5 1-0 1-0 1-0 0-0 - - 2-0
Last Meeting
Pittsburgh Tampa Bay
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/28/14 TB 27 PIT 24 390 85 305 350 63 287
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Pittsburgh B. Roethlisberger 72.5 314 3 0
Tampa Bay M. Glennon 50.0 302 2 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh L. Bell 19 63 3.3 0
Tampa Bay D. Martin 13 40 3.1 1
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh A. Brown 7 131 18.7 2
Tampa Bay L. Murphy 6 99 16.5 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Pittsburgh A. Brown 2
Tampa Bay M. Evans 1
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Pittsburgh B. Roethlisberger 61.4 787 4 3
Tampa Bay R. Fitzpatrick 78.7 819 8 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh J. Conner 39 152 3.9 3
Tampa Bay P. Barber 35 91 2.6 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh J. Smith-Schuster 18 240 13.3 1
Tampa Bay D. Jackson 9 275 30.6 3
Touchdowns Player TD
Pittsburgh J. Conner 3
Tampa Bay D. Jackson 3