A battle of surprising unbeaten teams takes place in Tampa Bay on Sunday when the Buccaneers (2-0) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0). Last year, it took Tampa 14 weeks to register its second victory of the season. However, the Bucs have excelled thanks to second-year quarterback Josh Freeman, who will face his most difficult test of the young season against a tough Steelers team that enters this matchup as a 2.5/3-point road favorite depending where you shop. We should point out that you should view our NFL football betting lines page so that you can compare the odds between multiple sportsbooks so you are getting the best price no matter who you like in this game.
Pittsburgh and Tampa have both used outstanding defense to hold their first two opponents in check, ranking second and third in the NFL, respectively, in points allowed. The teams are tied for the league lead in interceptions with four apiece and rank among the Top 10 in forced fumbles. That is where the similarities end though, especially when you break down the starting quarterbacks for this game.
The Steelers are a veteran team playing without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the third straight game due to a suspension. They are down to fourth-stringer Charlie Batch as the starter due to injuries to Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich, who was just re-signed due to a lack of depth at the position. Dixon suffered a knee injury in a 19-11 win at Tennessee last week and could miss up to a month. Batch relieved Dixon against the Titans and makes his first start since 2007.
Pittsburgh took advantage of seven turnovers by the Titans last week and will have an edge with Leftwich back in the fold since he started three games for the Bucs last season. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin also spent some time in Tampa, serving as the team’s defensive back coach from 2001-2005 before taking the defensive coordinator job in Minnesota. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris has since replaced Tomlin as the youngest head coach in the NFL.
Morris worked as an assistant coach under Tomlin before getting the Tampa job and has built his team very similar to the former Super Bowl champions. Like Roethlisberger, Freeman is a former first-round pick who was the third quarterback selected behind a couple bigger names. Roethlisberger was picked behind New York’s Eli Manning and San Diego’s Philip Rivers while Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez of the Jets were both drafted ahead of Freeman.
Unfortunately for Freeman and the Bucs, the Steelers will only be getting stronger for this matchup with the return of nose tackle Casey Hampton (hamstring) and left tackle Max Starks (ankle). Tampa has been able to win its first two games without much of a rushing attack, as running back Carnell Williams has 126 yards on 49 carries for a 2.6-yard average. Pittsburgh is allowing only 52 yards per game on the ground so far and will likely try to grind it out offensively with Batch under center.
The Steelers are 7-1 all-time against the Bucs in regular-season meetings, and this figures to be another low-scoring affair. The UNDER is 4-0 in the last four games between them and 9-0 in the last nine games overall for Tampa dating back to last season.
We lean towards the Steelers in this matchup at -2.5 or lower. At -3 we would pass. By now means is this a tap out type bet but we do have 5 NFL winners we like for Sunday card including our 20 unit NFL Game of the Month. You can get that winner as well as the other 4 picks on our NFL sports picks page of the site.