After a little less Fitzmagic in loss to Steelers, Bucs face interesting QB decision

Yahoo Sports

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted an opening to get Jameis Winston back in the starting lineup upon his return from suspension, Ryan Fitzpatrick gave it to them in the first half on Monday night.

We don’t know that’s what the Buccaneers want. We have no idea what the Bucs plan to do because they have put the question off at every turn during Winston’s three-game suspension. But Winston’s suspension ends Tuesday, and the Buccaneers will have to choose a quarterback.

Ryan Fitzpatrick celebrates a touchdown during Monday night’s game against the Steelers. (AP)
Ryan Fitzpatrick celebrates a touchdown during Monday night’s game against the Steelers. (AP)

Fitzpatrick was incredible through the first two games of the season, but he wasn’t as great on Monday night. Fitzpatrick’s three first-half interceptions put the Buccaneers in a big hole. Fitzpatrick rallied in the second half, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in three straight games. The Buccaneers put a scare into the Pittsburgh Steelers late, but Fitzpatrick couldn’t finish the job. The Steelers hung on for a much-needed 30-27 win.

Fitzpatrick was 30-of-50 for 411 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He shrugged off a bad first half to get his team back in the game. It was a decent performance but there were too many mistakes from Fitzpatrick for the Bucs to beat a desperate Steelers team.

Now what happens next for the Buccaneers at quarterback?

Ryan Fitzpatrick rallied the Bucs late

Fitzpatrick’s first throw of the night fell at the feet of Mike Evans, incomplete. He seemed a little off after that, at least until he heated up in the fourth quarter.

Fitzpatrick wasn’t terrible. He made some plays, like a jump-ball touchdown pass to Chris Godwin or a deep score to Evans in the fourth quarter. The throw to Evans cut a big deficit to a 30-27 Steelers lead. Fitzpatrick didn’t get a lot of protection, though as a veteran he should have known better than to throw with a defender in his face when he fired a pick-six to Bud Dupree.

Fitzpatrick had a chance to give the Bucs a lead when they got the ball back with a little more than three minutes remaining, but he misfired on three straight throws. The first two were almost picked off — Fitzpatrick had plenty of passes that were almost picked off on Monday night. After a punt, Ben Roethlisberger made an incredible escape and throw to get one first down, James Conner ran for another first down, and that was it.

Fitzpatrick was fine, it just wasn’t the same “Fitzmagic” from the first two weeks. The issue with Fitzpatrick has never been what he does when he’s at his best. Amazingly enough, he has seven NFL player of the week awards, including NFC offensive player of the week in the first two weeks of this season. It’s that he can never sustain that high level of play. That’s why he has been on seven teams.

What will the Buccaneers do?

The easy play for the Buccaneers might be to give Fitzpatrick the Week 4 start. The team has a Week 5 bye. It would give Winston time to get acclimate himself after three weeks off. It would also buy the Bucs some time.

Tampa Bay’s 2-1 start was a best-case scenario during Winston’s suspension. It put the Bucs in a bit of a dilemma. The 35-year-old journeyman Fitzpatrick isn’t the future of the franchise. That’s Winston, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick. But teams don’t like to make a change when things are going well, and Fitzpatrick has played well enough over all three games to get more starts.

After Monday night, the decision at quarterback got tougher.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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