WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL
It’ll be a happy homecoming of sorts for Pittsburgh, which won its fifth Super Bowl in Tampa; and for Tomlin, who as mentioned was a Bucs’ assistant coach for five seasons before heading to Minnesota for one year, then Pennsylvania. The well-traveled Leftwich, too, was in Tampa Bay last season and amassed a 71.2 passer rating on 107 attempts.
As for Batch, he’s 4-2 in his career as a starter against the Bucs. He’ll rely heavily in this one on horse running back Rashard Mendenhall, who’s averaged 88.2 yards per game in road starts. He’s third in the conference with 189 yards on 45 carries – a 4.2-yard average – through two games.
On the outside, veteran Hines Ward can continue a streak that’s seen him catch a pass in 180 straight games – fifth-best in NFL history. Ward needs two TDs to surpass Jerome Bettis (80) for second in franchise history. He’s caught seven passes for 117 yards through two games.
From the back to the front, ageless cornerback Ronde Barber is playing like a man 10 years younger, having picked off a pass in each of the first two games to join the tie for the NFL lead. He is one of two players in league history with 25-plus sacks (25) and 30-plus interceptions (39) and had a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery against Pittsburgh in October 2001.
Linebacker Quincy Black had a sack against Carolina last week, while end Tim Crowder had a career-best two sacks and also forced a fumble.
Tampa Bay was dealt an off-the-field blow when safety Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely for a repeat violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The 25-year-old missed the first four games of 2009 while serving a four-game suspension. He is eligible for reinstatement on Sept. 22, 2011.