Ex­pect lots of pass­ing magic from Fitz­patrick and Big Ben

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - JOHN KRYK [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter: @JohnKryk

Pre-sea­son ex­pec­ta­tions mean so lit­tle, don’t they?

Ev­ery year, the NFL of­fers sur­prises a few weeks into the sched­ule.

Two such sur­prise teams are on dis­play in this week’s Mon­day Night Foot­ball matchup: the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers at the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers (TSN via ESPN).

The Steel­ers are win­less (0-1-1), the Bucs un­de­feated (2-0), just as no­body ex­pected.

Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the Steel­ers opened against the hadn’t-wonin-ages Cleve­land Browns, and the Bucs faced two of the top teams in the NFC: New Or­leans and de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pion Phil­a­del­phia.

Just as sur­pris­ingly, of the two start­ing quar­ter­backs, Tampa Bay temp Ryan Fitz­patrick is the one who set a new NFL record with two 400-yard, four­touch­down pass­ing ef­forts to open a sea­son, while Pitts­burgh’s Ben Roeth­lis­berger is the one who has thrown three in­ter­cep­tions and lost three fum­bles.

One thing we can prob­a­bly bank on in this game: pro­lific pass­ing. Fitz­patrick and Roeth­lis­berger ranked 1-2 in the NFL in pass­ing yards af­ter two weeks, with 819 and 787, re­spec­tively.

Just how much of a fac­tor Pitts­burgh wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown is will be among the top sto­ry­lines.

Brown, one of the most ac­com­plished NFL re­ceivers in mod­ern times, moped worse than ever last week. He claimed it was be­cause the Steel­ers lost, but it sure looked and felt like an ex­treme pout over not get­ting thrown the ball of­ten enough.

Brown skipped Mon­day ’s meet­ings and was dis­ci­plined for it, head coach Mike Tom­lin said.

“He is not the only one who gets frus­trated in games,” Roeth­lis­berger said. “We all get frus­trated. Like I said, when you are the best in the world you might get a lit­tle more frus­trated than oth­ers. AB is a very pas­sion­ate foot­ball player. I think we know that.

“That is what makes him spe­cial.”

Over­rid­ing all sto­ry­lines, though, is what the Bucs will do at quar­ter­back should Fitz­patrick once again play top-shelf foot­ball.

Jameis Win­ston, the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick in 2015, re­turns Tues­day from a sea­son-open­ing three-game sus­pen­sion levied by the league for a sex­ual as­sault in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a cab driver.

The feel­ing now is there is no way Bucs head coach Dirk Koet­ter could bench Fitz for Win­ston. Not with Fitz play­ing like this.

Talk about early-sea­son sur­prises.

Ben Roeth­lis­berger

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