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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Mike Evans can thrive as Tampa Bay seek third notable scalp

Off-field issues appear to be affecting Pittsburgh camp

Mike Evans celebrates a TD for Tampa Bay against Philadelphia
1 of 1

Week three
Sky Sports Action, 1.15am Monday night

It wasn't supposed to be like this. It should have been Tampa Bay who made a struggling start to the season while Pittsburgh flexed their muscles and demonstrated their Super Bowl credentials.

But it's the Florida outfit who have earned the plaudits while off-field issues appear to be affecting life in the Steelers camp as they search for their first victory this season.

Many had modest expectations for the Bucs.

They claimed just five victories last term in the hottest division in the game - rivals Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina all claimed playoff places - and Tampa Bay looked to be on a hiding to nothing.

However, under stand-in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they have claimed victories over the Saints and Super Bowl champions Philadelphia and should be confident of claiming another notable scalp.

The Steelers gave the ball away five times in their opening tie with Cleveland and their defence had no answer to Kansas City quarterback sensation Patrick Mahomes in last week's home 42-37 loss to the Chiefs.

Star running back Le'Veon Bell is sidelined as a contract dispute rumbles on and wide receiver Antonio Brown has also been voicing his disquiet.

With a defence struggling in the absence of seriously injured linebacker Ryan Shazier, a swift recovery may not be on the cards.

Both teams have the potential to post plenty of points, but the Tampa Bay receivers are of more interest from a betting perspective.

Former Eagle and Redskin DeSean Jackson looks to have put a disappointing first season in Florida behind him, scoring three touchdowns in the opening fortnight.

However, Mike Evans remains the main man and has caught twice as many catches as Jackson, so he could represent better value to cross for a touchdown.

M Evans to score a touchdown
1pt 23-20 Betfred

The lowdown
Venue Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Surface Grass
Weather Drizzle, 27C
Vegas handicap Pittsburgh -1.5
Vegas points line 53.5

Team news
Running back Le'Veon Bell remains embroiled in a contract dispute and is unavailable. Safety Morgan Bennett, guard David DeCastro and tackle Marcus Gilbert are all doubts. Stephon Tuitt, Ramos Foster and Joe Haden participated in Saturday's practice.

Tampa Bay
Defensive tackle Vita Vea has been ruled out. Safety Chris Conte and Brent Grimes are questionable.

Key stat
Pittsburgh have covered the handicap in just one of their last nine matches

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under stand-in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they have claimed victories over the Saints and Super Bowl champions Philadelphia
E.W. Terms
Sky bet