Steelers win over Buccaneers thanks to several unlikely heroes

They say the NFL is a crazy football league.

“Any Given Sunday” came to life many years after the movie, and that’s because the line between fringe players and elite players is often thin enough that upheavals can happen anytime and anywhere. anywhere in the National Football League.

But, come on, we were supposed to believe all that malarkey when the Steelers hosted the heavily favored Buccaneers at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday afternoon?

We were supposed to suspend our disbelief and think that the Pittsburgh secondary, a unit missing four of its top five players, could stand up to Tom Brady, a quarterback who entered Sunday’s game with a lifetime record. of 12-3 against the Steelers and had thrown 34 touchdowns for only five interceptions against them during his legendary career?

We were supposed to assume that the Steelers’ front seven, the one who had barely sniffed out the opposing quarterback in the previous four games without TJ Watt, would be able to generate enough pressure to make life uncomfortable for Brady for most of the season. ‘afternoon ?

However, the very impoverished defense of the Steelers held firm all afternoon. I can’t explain it, but it really happened.

Alex Highsmith recorded one of Pittsburgh’s sacks in that unlikely 20-18 win. Cam Heyward was credited with the other.

You might have expected this from these two, but what about Larry Ogunjobi’s game? He had five tackles and two quarterback hits, and he finally delivered the kind of performance the Steelers were hoping for when they signed him in the offseason to take the place of a retired Stephon Tuitt. .

What about Robert Spillane, who, as head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game, played many roles on Sunday, including inside linebacker, dime linebacker and safety? Spillane also had a big pass breakup to thwart a Buccaneers drive in a game that was close from start to finish.

And what about The Replacements? I’m talking about a makeshift secondary led by Arthur “Team Conscience” Maulet. Maulet had a day. Josh Jackson had a day. James Pierre looked like the James Pierre many thought he might be when he won the starting cornerback spot from training camp in 2021. Tre Norwood played a good game. Heck, someone named Elijah Riley did a play or two.

Pittsburgh’s backup, the one who was missing Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cam Sutton, Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon, played so admirably on Sunday that I wonder if Tomlin should go with the “hot hand” even though these guys are all healthy for the next game.

Perhaps The Replacements acquitted themselves so well thanks to Terrell Edmunds, the only high school starter who had perhaps the best game of his career, posting 10 tackles and acting as the leader his depleted unit needed that he be.

Even Malik “Legend Replacer” Reed finally did something in Watt’s absence and made an important play on Sunday.

Last but not least, what about Devin Bush breaking up a pass on a two-point conversion after the Bucs scored a touchdown to close in on two with 4:38 left in the game?

And those were just the unlikely defense heroes.

There was even an unlikely special teams hero: Steven “Randle El” Sims, who fired the second-half kickoff from 89 yards to set up a Chris Boswell field goal and also had a comeback clearance from 24 yards later in the game.

How about these unsung heroes on offense?

What about Chase Claypool who had seven passes for 96 yards and a touchdown — the team’s first by a receiver in 2022? Claypool saved his best for last, however, when he made two key third passes in the game’s final drive, including an impressive reception near the touchline where he barely had an elbow on the grass of Acrisure Stadium while maintaining possession and turnover. off limits – that helped salt things up.

Perhaps the most unlikely hero of all was quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who entered the game in place of a concussed Kenny Pickett in the second half and completed nine of 12 passes for 144 yards and what s turned out to be the winning touchdown on the strike at Claypool. What’s more, Trubisky showed athleticism, determination and poise not only rushing to fall on an errant center slam from Mason Cole, but immediately following that up by connecting with Claypool on a third and 16 assist. to keep that last drive alive.

Despite its frequent use, the “Any Given Sunday” mantra is often unrealistic, as is “Next Man Up”.

But those Steelers, and their massive cast of unlikely heroes, breathed new life into those tired quotes on Sunday by paving the way for an unlikely victory.

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