Tampa Bay enters this week’s contest having lost four in a row, including a heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia Soul last week. However, the team is in good spirits as they know they control their own playoff destiny. But, the Storm will face a big test on the road; in a city the Tampa Bay franchise traces its roots too, against the Pittsburgh Power.
The Storm, the lone remaining original franchise from the inaugural AFL season in 1987, spent its first four seasons in existence as the Pittsburgh Gladiators prior to then-owner Bob Gries relocating the team to St. Petersburg for the 1991 season.
Pittsburgh, having won their first game on the field in ten weeks, will be looking to shut down the Storm’s passing game. The Storm knows that they will need to keep their quarterback, Nick Hill, upright if they want a shot at winning.
“They have a good pass rush,” said Storm head coach Dave Ewart.
The Power’s win over the Iowa Barnstormers also displayed how bruising its offense can be if given the opportunity to get going. Versus Iowa, the Power scored 4-of-8 touchdowns on the ground, en route to their second highest scoring game of the season.
Besides the rushing attack, the Storm defense will need to shut down a talented receiving corp. that is anchored by P.J. Berry. Coming into this week’s tilt, the AFL’s all-purpose yardage leader, Berry has hauled in 89 passes for 1,008 yards and eleven touchdowns. He also leads the team and league in kick return yards with 1,727.
“They have three big-time receivers,” said Ewart. “P.J. Berry, he’s one of the best in the league.”
Despite four consecutive losses, the team feels confident going into Pittsburgh knowing that each win improves their chances in the playoff hunt.
“We need to go into Pittsburgh focused,” Ewart said. “If we get better every day, we can go in and win this game.”
INSIDE THE SERIES
• This is the second meeting between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, and first in Pittsburgh.
• The Storm leads the series 1-0.
• The Storm has outscored the Power by a margin of seven points.
• The Storm were known as the Gladiators when the team was in Pittsburgh and participated in two ArenaBowl’s. …Even hosting the inaugural ArenaBowl in 1987 against the Denver Dynamite.
• The team was 17-18 overall in Pittsburgh, 16-14 in the regular season and 1-4 in the playoffs
SCOUTING THE POWER
• Pittsburg boasts the league’s best passing defense, allowing only 220.7 passing yards per game.
• Pittsburgh WR P.J. Berry leads the league in all-purpose yardage, averaging 197.2 yards per game, and leads the league in kick return yards with 1,727.
• Pittsburgh holds opponents to a league low of 17.3 first downs per game.
STORM AGAINST THE POWER
• This will be WR/KR Michael Lindsey’s second game against the Power, returning seven kicks for 140 yards in his first game.
• FB Terrence Royal has played in one game versus the Power, and rushed twice for 18 yards and a touchdown.
• WR Amarri Jackson has played in one game against Pittsburgh, hauling in 11 passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• How Tampa Bay handles the Pittsburgh pass defense.
• If the Storm can climb back into the playoff hunt, and gain some ground on its South Division opponents.
• Can Tampa Bay contain the explosive PJ Berry and limit WR Mike Washington's impact on the game.
• If the Storm can snap its four-game losing streak by getting back on track on the road, where they are currently winless.