Bucs' Todd Bowles: 'Guys living off Super Bowl in fantasy land'

PITTSBURGH -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles didn't mince words after his team fell to 3-3 after a 20-18 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had dropped four straight prior to Sunday and were led by a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett.

"We didn't take them lightly, No. 1. No. 2, I think guys that are living off the Super Bowl are living in a fantasy land," Bowles said. "You've gotta get your hands dirty and go to work like everybody else. We've been working hard and we've gotta work harder. Nobody's gonna give us anything. Nobody's gonna feel sorry. We've gotta go back as coaches, as players -- the time for talking is over. You either gotta put up or shut up."

When asked if he felt there were coaches or players who were living in a fantasy land, Bowles said, "I didn't say we were. I'm just saying -- you get patted on the back so much, you gotta relive ... Every year and every week, you've gotta go out there and earn your pay and earn your keep. If you don't live like that, it's gonna be a result like today."

The Bucs scored just one time in four trips to the red zone despite the Steelers missing safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and their three stop corners -- Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace -- plus star outside linebacker T.J. Watt. And they allowed Pickett and backup Mitch Trubisky to each throw touchdowns with Chase Claypool scoring the Steelers' first touchdown by a receiver all season.

It snapped Tom Brady's 12-game streak of wins against a rookie quarterback -- tied for the second-longest among quarterbacks since 1950, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Even Brady's trademark quarterback sneak -- which he had converted on all 13 attempts prior to Sunday as a Buccaneer -- didn't work on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Prior to Sunday, Brady was 80-of-102 since 2009 on quarterback sneaks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"We didn't earn it," Brady said. "We didn't earn the win. It's a game of earning it and it's a game of playing well and performing well and we're just not doing a good job of that. I don't think we've done it for six weeks. I think we're all playing less than what we're capable of. We've all gotta look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out why."

The most glaring issue has been the Bucs' lack of offensive production. They are averaging 20.17 points on offense through the first six games after averaging 30.33 points per game at this point last year. They've struggled to run the ball consistently, with multiple negative run plays against the Steelers. Brady also did not test the Steelers' battered secondary downfield.

"We can't rely on anything from the past to fix things for us today," wide receiver Chris Godwin said. "Everything from the past, everything we've accomplished in the past doesn't help us now. It's a brand-new offense. We have three brand-new offensive linemen. It takes time to jell. We have two to three new receivers. It takes time to jell. We've gotta put the work in. That's what it comes down to. No matter what happens this game, last game -- we've gotta put the work in."

"I think a lot of talking has to stop," offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said. "I think a big point of emphasis coming in after the game was, 'We've gotta stop talking. We've gotta be about action, we've gotta prove it, we've gotta be about the work, we've gotta put in.' ... I feel like everyone thinks we're a team that we're not. This is our first year -- this team, the 2022 Buccaneers. We're not the 2020 Buccaneers, we're not the 2021 Buccaneers. We haven't done anything yet. We're 3-3. It ain't good. That's what we are. Your record is what you are. We've gotta be better."

On defense, they've gotten off to slow starts, surrendering 27 points on the opening drives of games -- the most in the NFL, with Pickett's touchdown to Najee Harris happening on the Steelers' first possession. Third-and-longs have also been an issue and they were against Trubisky in the second half when Pickett left the game with a concussion. The Bucs surrendered four plays on third-and-11 plus to Trubisky.

"I don't think we're living off the Super Bowl, but we've just gotta be better all-around," inside linebacker Devin White said. "Hell, I haven't seen my Super Bowl ring since the day I got it. But it is what it is. He's got his opinion and we've got ours. And we're the ones just going out there working so we just have to be 100 times better so we can come out victorious. It starts Wednesday in practice with everything. Everything gotta be at an even higher level. Cause right now, you're playing from behind and you wanna make sure you're executing at a high level."

Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett doesn't believe that's the case, either, but said they need to learn how to play consistently for four quarters

"I know it's a week-in, week-out type of thing," Barrett said. "I know it's earned, it's not given. But if you're still living there after last year, what happened. Like I could see if we went last year, you could still be trying to think about and trying to be there. But we haven't been to the Super Bowl in a couple of years. We shouldn't be thinking about that. We should be thinking about taking it one week at a time, one game at a time. That'll put us where we need to be at.

"I still think we have all the right guys on the team, but we have to put it together. Good teams don't come out and lose games on stuff that we did. We didn't even do anything to win the game. We gave them the game."