The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin the Bruce Arians era on Friday night when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first preseason game for both teams this season.
Hoping For Better
The Buccaneers are coming off a 5-11 season in 2018. They had plenty of issues to deal with, including controversy at the QB position between Jameis Winston and veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. As a team, they finished in last place in the NFC South, closing out the season on a four-game losing streak.
Going into the 2019 season, Winston has much more security as the starter, with just Blaine Gabbert behind him on the depth chart. This is a big year for Winston, as the Bucs will have to decide after this season if he is going to be the QB of their franchise. Winston played in 11 games last year, completing 64.6 percent of his passes while throwing 19 TDs and 14 INTs. The Buccaneers went just 3-6 when Winston was the starter.
Something that should really work in the Bucs favor is their new head coach Bruce Arians. Arians last coached with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013 to 2017. He is known to have a good offensive mind for the game and should help Tampa Bay get an identity at least on that side of the ball. While we may not see all the stars play in the preseason games, it will be interesting to see what schemes he has the offense running that will eventually utilize the playmakers they do have, such as star wide receiver Mike Evans.
Change In Stars
The Steelers are coming off a drama-filled season. Between the Antonio Brown issues and trade to the Le’Veon Bell holdout and James Conner stepping in to get the job done. Pittsburgh finished the season 9-6-1 last year behind the Ravens in the AFC North and out of the playoffs.
The other player to step up big for the Steelers last year was their young star wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster finished last season with 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, giving Ben Roethlisberger a new top target.
Conner was their new star in the ground game as he compiled 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. They will use this preseason to get everything back on track and make sure their team is all on the same page moving forward.
The biggest name to keep an eye on during the Steelers’ preseason will be their first-round pick, rookie linebacker Devin Bush. Bush was a standout at Michigan and will fit in very nicely with TJ Watt, who has fit into the NFL very well so far.
What To Expect
In this game, like any preseason game, the win will go to whichever team has more depth and whichever team will push the envelope more rather than playing a vanilla game. Both of these teams will come into this game with something to prove. The Steelers want to show that they will operate fine as a team without Brown and Bell while coming together as a unit to prepare for the season. The Bucs will be looking for each guy to earn their spot as their future as a team is up in the air right now, and they are searching for leaders to step up. Because of the depth and coaching experience, I think the Steelers will take this game.