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Steelers face another hot QB
The Pittsburgh Steelers' struggling pass defense won't get a break on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is playing for suspended starter Jameis Winston, is the NFL's leading passer after two games. He has thrown for 819 yards and eight touchdowns as the Buccaneers opened with victories against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles, two NFC playoff teams from last season.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes torched the Steelers. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 326 yards and six touchdowns in a 42-37 upset of the Steelers at Heinz Field.
Mahomes became only the second quarterback to ever throw for six touchdowns against the Steelers. Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills threw six touchdowns against the Steelers in 1991.
Head coach Mike Tomlin called the performance "discouraging."
"We've just got to keep working," Tomlin said. "We can't blink the face of adversity. You're always going to face adversity in these journeys. We're staring in the face of some. You don't get to pick and choose the adversity you face when you face it. I do know you have to respond to it appropriately."
If the defense struggles again, the Steelers have the firepower to stay in the game. Ben Roethlisberger is second among the league's leading passers behind Fitzpatrick and is coming off a 452-yard, three touchdown performance in the loss to the Chiefs.
But everything is not well with the Steelers. They are 0-1-1 entering the game, and they're dealing with some off-field issues as well.
All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown implied on Twitter that he wanted to be traded and did not report to work Monday with the rest of his teammates. This despite being targeted an NFL-high 33 times during the first two games.
Brown did show up for work Wednesday, and Roethlisberger said he's not concerned about Brown's role in the offense. The Chiefs doubled Brown for much of the game, which allowed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jesse James to each get over 100 receiving yards.
"He's been garnering a lot of attention for a long time now," Roethlisberger said. "I think it's early in the season. In the first game, we had some elements that didn't let me get him the ball to him as much as I should have. Last week they put a lot of guys on him. But other guys were open too. I'm not worried about A.B. He'll be just fine."
Brown's production isn't up to his usual standards, but he still has 18 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown. Rather than use social media to voice his frustrations, or have sideline confrontations with his coaches, Roethlisberger would rather Brown come to him with any grievances.
"He's not the only guy who gets frustrated in games," Roethlisberger said. "We all get frustrated. When you're the best in the world, you might get a little more frustrated than others. A.B. is a very passionate football player. We all know that. Fans know that. That's what makes him special - the passion for this game and the passion to be great. So we're not going to take that away from him.
"When he's getting frustrated in games I just want him to stay with me and talk to me, communicate with me and let me know. If I missed you on something, or if you're getting open and I didn't see it, let's just talk and communicate."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 8-2. The Buccaneers won the most recent matchup at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2014. Before that, the Steelers won four in a row and eight of the previous nine since the Buccaneers entered the NFL in 1976. The Steelers are 5-1 all-time in games played in Tampa. The Steelers' only loss in Tampa came in 1998 when the Buccaneers won, 16-3.