By STEPHEN F. HOLDER St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
The Bucs could see one of three Steelers quarterbacks when Pittsburgh comes to town Sunday, but Tampa Bay’s players and coaches won’t bother trying to determine which one they’ll face.
With Steelers starter Ben Roethlisbergerserving a league suspension for off-the-field conduct, the Bucs will face Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich or Charlie Batch. Dixon injured his knee Sunday, and his status is unclear. Leftwich was re-signed Monday after being released last week in a procedural move while he waited for aninjury to heal. Batch finished Sunday’s game at Tennessee after Dixon left.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. “Prepare your game plans. Prepare for (each) guy and be ready to deal. When (something) comes up in the game, you’ve already talked about situations, and you’ve already talked about how you want to deal with it.”
Another thing Morris is not talking about openly is any wishes to play against Leftwich, who spent last season with the Bucs and was released in the offseason. The Bucs clearly could plan effectively against a quarterback they know so well, but there’s a flip side to that, too, Morris said.
“Byron knows us well,” Morris said. “Byron may have a couple things up his sleeve that he knows that he can use to hurt me.”
Possible sellout:There’s a strong possibility of the Bucs having their first sellout crowd Sunday if ticket sales remain brisk. The club wouldn’t characterize how many unsold seats remain, but given the undefeated Steelers’ popularity and large fan base and the Bucs’ 2-0 start, there’s guarded optimism at One Buc Place that Raymond James Stadium will be a full house.
“We hope our (fans) come out and support us,” Morris said. “We hope we can get everybody out there and we can get the place packed. It’s a great game. Two 2-0 teams.”
If the game sells out by 1 p.m. Thursday – 72 hours before kickoff – the game will be televised locally. The Bucs have had two preseason contests and their regular-season opener blacked out on local television, per NFL rules.
Silent Sammie: Starting WR Sammie Stroughter finished Sunday’s game without a reception for just the second time in his 17 NFL games.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he wants to better incorporate Stroughter because of his ability to gain yards in the open field. Though not a speed burner, Stroughter is skilled at catching the ball in traffic and slipping tacklers.
3 for the road: With Sunday’s win at Carolina, the Bucs have won three consecutive road games dating to last season’s victories over Seattle and New Orleans.
It’s no small feat for a team this young, considering the Bucs hadn’t done that since 2003.
“If you can get wins on the road with a young team, that’s a great feeling for your organization,” Morris said. “You’re talking about a team growing up right in front of us.”
Quote of the day: “I rolled the dice a little bit and lost.” – Morris on his decision to call for an all-out blitz on a second-quarter, fourth-down play on which the Panthers hit a 37-yard touchdown pass to WR Steve Smith.
There was no deep help on the play as the Bucs sent multiple blitzers and FS Tanard Jackson had to leave the middle of the field to line up against an uncovered receiver.
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