No, it's not time to panic, Pittsburgh. That doesn't mean Bill Cowher is happy.
Showing a lethal, efficient offense even with backups playing most of the game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the Steelers 30-6 on Saturday night in the Hall of Fame exhibition game.
It was far from a true test of how much the Steelers miss Greg Lloyd, because the starters barely played. But these numbers put Cowher in a foul mood, preseason game or not. The Bucs ripped the Steelers defense for 342 yards, 198 on the ground.
"I am never going to say that this is easy to take," Cowher said. "I will never tolerate something like this on a regular basis. It's easy to say it's just an exhibition game, but every time you step out on the field you have a degree of pride."
"We have expectation levels around here that we certainly didn't live up to. We didn't come close to meeting them."
Leeland McElroy led the Bucs with 72 yards on nine carries, including a 25-yard TD run. Steve Walsh and Scott Milanovich staged a pretty even battle for the backup quarterback job. Rookie Jacquez Green led a deep, speedy contingent of receivers with a 53-yard TD reception from Milanovich.
"We're making progress," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "We played these guys up in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago and really couldn't compete with them. It's the first game, so don't read too much into it."
Jahine Arnold was the bright spot for Pittsburgh with 112 kickoff return yards. Third-string quarterback Pete Gonzalez was 9-for-15 for 102 yars.
Trent Dilfer played two series and was 1-for-4. Bucs quarterbacks were 14-for-28 for 144 yards -- and free agent acquisition Bert Emanuel didn't even catch a pass.
"Yeah, it was a rough one," said Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart, who played three series, completing a 9-yard pass and running for 7 yards. "But you know it's just the first preseason game. You can't expect too much."
A sellout crowd of 23,875 was on hand for the first Hall of Fame game televised in prime time. It followed the induction of Paul Krause, Tommy McDonald, Anthony Munoz, Mike Singletary and Dwight Stephenson to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
McElroy, claimed on waivers by the Bucs, showed that he might be the big-play running back Dungy is looking for to back up Dunn.
"I know I'm being scrutinized and I'm trying to show them they didn't make a mistake getting me," McElroy said.
John Husted kicked two field goals in the first quarter to make it 6-0, and the night was over for starters on both teams.
Walsh, the Bucs' backup last year, completed 8-of-14 for 62 yards, including a 24-yard strike to Brice Hunter in the second quarter. That set up Husted's third field goal and made it 16-3.
Milanovich orchestrated two touchdown drives in the third that made it a full-fledged blowout. He had a 5-yard TD pass to John Davis on a drive set up by McElroy's 24-yard scamper on a draw play. Husted's kick made it 23-3.
Pittsburgh's chance to stop the onslaught was thwarted when Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala fumbled at the Steelers' 4.
Milanovich then led the Bucs on a 96-yard scoring drive, hitting Green with a 53-yard pass to set up Steve Lee's 5-yard TD catch. Husted's extra point made it 30-3 and gave him a Hall of Fame record 12 points. Kansas City's Jan Stenerud had 11 in 1972.
"I had to get myself into the Hall of Fame some way," Husted said. "I guess if they can put like a little small plaque in the back room, that'd be OK."
Steelers punter Josh Miller was helped off the field with a sprained ankle after recovering a bad snap by Roger Duffy in the first quarter.
Pittsburgh receiver Harold Bishop was hit by rookie Shevin Smith as he went for a pass by Pete Gonzalez late in the third. Bishop got up, but was wobbly as he walked off the field.
The packed house at Fawcett Stadium -- a high school field -- was a mere prelude to next year, when the expansion Cleveland Browns play their first game in Ohio against the Dallas Cowboys.
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