Ben Roethlisberger threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 30-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.
Capping a tumultuous week in which star receiver Antonio Brown made headlines by shouting at an assistant coach on the sidelines and getting into a spat on social media, the Steelers (1-1-1) built a 20-point lead before holding on for their first win.
Vance McDonald scored on a 75-yard pass play and finished with four catches for 112 yards. Brown and Ryan Switzer also had first-half TD receptions for Pittsburgh, which led 30-10 at halftime.
The Steelers’ defense forced four turnovers, including three first-half interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the 35-year-old journeyman who threw for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in two victories to begin Tampa Bay’s season.
Fitzpatrick, the only player in NFL history to open a season with consecutive games with over 400 yards passing and four touchdowns, tried his best to create “FitzMagic” again in his third start in place of the suspended Jameis Winston.
He led a long field goal drive in the third quarter, and then tossed fourth-quarter TD passes of 4 yards to Chris Godwin and 24 yards to Mike Evans to rally the Bucs (2-1) within 30-27 with 5:43 remaining.
The Bucs got the ball back with just over three minutes left; however, the Steelers forced a punt and Roethlisberger ran out the clock.
Fitzpatrick finished 30 of 50 for 411 yards and three TDs. Roethlisberger was 30 of 38 with one interception, completing nine passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster for 116 yards and six to Brown for 50 yards. His on-field chemistry with Brown appeared fine in the first game since Brown responded to a former team employee on social media by suggesting the club trade him if it wants to find out how productive he can be without Roethlisberger.
Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on three consecutive pass attempts during one stretch of the second quarter. The first stopped a promising drive at the Steelers’ 6, and linebacker Bud Dupree returned the last one 10 yards for a touchdown that put the Steelers up 23-7.
Roethlisberger also turned a fumble into a 27-yard TD pass to Brown and moved the Steelers 75 yards in nine plays just before the half to make it 30-10 on his 1-yard scoring pass to Switzer.