TAMPA, FLORIDA – Ben Roethlisberger completed 30 of 38 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers collected their first victory of the season, 30-27 over the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.
Linebacker Bud Dupree returned an interception for a touchdown as the Steelers (1-1-1) picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick three times.
Cornerback Mike Hilton and safety Terrell Edmunds also picked off passes, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (nine catches, 116 yards) and tight end Vance McDonald (four catches, 112 yards, one touchdown) topped 100 yards, and wideouts Antonio Brown and Ryan Switzer also caught scoring passes.
The Buccaneers (2-1) received a mixed dosage of “FitzMagic” even though the 35-year-old veteran topped 400 passing yards for an NFL-record third consecutive game. Fitzpatrick, who completed 30 of 50 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns, had a hand in three of the team’s four first-half turnovers while digging a 20-point halftime deficit.
However, he resumed his success with fourth-quarter touchdown passes to receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans (six catches, 137 yards), the latter a 24-yarder that pulled Tampa Bay within 30-27 with 5:43 remaining.
Pittsburgh was able to hold on via the ground game as James Conner rushed for 49 of his 61 yards over the final 5:43. The Buccaneers were forced to punt on their lone possession during that span.
Roethlisberger passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns and the defense intercepted Fitzpatrick three times as the Steelers built a 30-10 halftime edge.
The Buccaneers struck first on Fitzpatrick’s 4-yard pass to tight end Cameron Brate midway through the first quarter before Pittsburgh scored the next 23 points.
McDonald tossed Tampa Bay safety Chris Conte aside en route to a 75-yard touchdown catch with 5:48 left in the opening quarter. Chris Boswell kicked a 38-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 9-7 edge with 12:14 left in the half.
Two plays after Hilton recovered a fumble, Roethlisberger connected with Brown on a 27-yard scoring pass with 10:33 remaining until halftime. Dupree intercepted Fitzpatrick at the Buccaneers 10-yard line and returned it for a touchdown to make it 23-7 with 2:50 left in the second quarter.
Roethlisberger tossed a 1-yard scoring pass to Switzer with six seconds to go to make it 30-10.
Tampa Bay’s Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 28-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, and the Buccaneers cut their deficit to 30-20 on Fitzpatrick’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Godwin with 11:06 left in the game.
Fitzpatrick has started the first three games in place of starter Jameis Winston, who is eligible to return to the team Tuesday after serving a three-game suspension for inappropriately touching a female Uber driver.