Expect lots of passing magic from Fitzpatrick and Big Ben
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.