There it is, in a game that came down to the wire, the first Bucs game under Bruce Arians and his new staff has come and gone in a 30-28 loss to the Pittsburgh.
While the Bucs’ started strong, racing down the field in their first possession and putting up seven points on a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin before giving up one long reception and ultimately forcing the Steelers to punt from their own territory, things slowed down once the backup units took the field.
OL Cole Boozer
A key part of a backup unit that struggled mightily throughout the night, Boozer stepped in as the second-string center and struggled from the start. Goozer wasn’t the only lineman to struggle as Tampa Bay gave up four sacks and backups Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin were hit officially 14 times.
On the third drive of the night, with Griffin under center, Boozer and offensive guard Earl Watford were both flagged with holding penalties on a drive that lasted just three plays and left the Bucs punting from deep within their own territory.
The second-string offensive line continued their troubles as the next drive lasted just two plays before Griffin was hit in the backfield, fumbling the ball, and punted on two of their next three drives while scoring just three points over the five-drive span. Boozer was flagged again for holding later in the third quarter on a one-yard, three-play drive that resulted in another punt.
Backup Interior Defensive Line
With Vita Vea out with a knee injury suffered this past Tuesday, the interior defensive line depth for the Buc is already behind the eight ball and it wasn’t a promising performance for the unit once the starters left on Friday night.
After the starters departed following the defense’s first series, the Steelers would go on to score 13 points on their remaining three drives of the first half, rush for 109 yards on 24 attempts throughout the rest of the game and couldn’t find to collapse the pocket or bring down a number of Steelers’ receivers despite numerous pressures from Noah Spence, Carl Nassab and the rest of the Tampa Bay edge rushers. With the lack of contain and pressure, plays were allowed to develop which opened the field for Pittsburgh to make chunk plays down the field and eventually find holes in coverage to score when down near the goal line.
Preseason will be a testing ground as the absence of Vea will force Beau Allen in the starting spot, giving Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Pat O’Connor and Jeremiah Ledbetter extra snaps, as well as the Bucs’ seventh-round pick this year, Terry Beckner Jr. and undrafted free agent Dare Odeyingbo.
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
It was a rough go for Murphy-Bunting in his first dose of NFL action on Friday night. He got a good chunk of playing time throughout the middle portion of the game it’s clear that he’s still getting up to speed with the play at the NFL level, especially coming from a smaller school like Central Michigan despite facing some higher-level competition in his time there.
Murphy-Bunting was beat in coverage a couple of times throughout the game, was part of a secondary that allowed the Steelers to pick up multiple first downs while being backed up on third down and later on in the game made a few more crucial mistakes of his own.
In the third quarter, on first-and-10 from their own 24-yard line, Pittsburgh QB Devlin Hodges sent a long pass down the right sideline intended for Johnny Holton. The pass fell incomplete but Murphy-Bunting was flagged for defensive pass interference. Arians challenged the play and while the contact didn’t appear to be exceptional, the ruling was upheld and ended up going for a 27-yard gain. Later in the drive with the ball at the eight-yard line, Murphy-Bunting found himself in critical coverage again when Tevin Jones was able to get free in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.