In the Sunday night game the Pittsburgh Steelers got a big statement win over the previous 2-0 Carolina Panthers by a score of 37-19. Pittsburgh ran the ball extremely well and consistently got to Cam Newton in the backfield, hitting him relentlessly. The game was very sloppy with a ton of penalties costing both teams in some crucial moments, along with big injuries on both sides.
Carolina opened the scoring with an opening field goal that came from a drive kept alive by Steelers penalties, which would remain a recurring theme throughout. Early on, Pittsburgh was able to rush the ball very well with LeVeon Bell, but had to settle for field goals in the early going. Both defenses had some big stops, as neither team was able to get into the end zone in the first half with a halftime score of 12-3.
In the second half, the Steelers were really able to get their offense clicking, helped along by a big turnover early in the third quarter. The Panthers were driving when Jarvis Jones was able to get to Cam Newton and force a fumble on a third down, deep in Pittsburgh territory. In a very good defensive stand, the Panthers were able to hold Pittsburgh to a three and out on their own twenty, but were flagged for encroachment giving them a first down. On the very next play, Ben Roethlisberger avoided the rush extremely well to find Antonio Brown in the corner of the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
Carolina’s offense was really unable to get anything going throughout the game. The exception was some great catches from rookie Kelvin Benjamin. The 2014 first round pick was all over the field, catching nearly everything thrown his way, even when in traffic, and ended the day with 8 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. On the opposite side, it was a very rough day for the Panther’s quarterback, with the Steelers constantly putting pressure on him. Newton was sacked three times and brought to the ground countless others, looking very hobbled after getting up from some of the hits.
Things got worse for the Panthers in the third when a returner muffed a punt that bounced around all the way into their own end zone that was eventually recovered by the Steelers.
LeVeon Bell and LaGarrette Blount running the ball became the highlight for the Steelers, with both running backs ending the day with over 100 yards rushing. Bell ended the day with 147 yards, the majority of which came on a huge 81 yard run that got Pittsburgh out of their own end and set up Brown’s second receiving touchdown. Blount also had some big runs, breaking off a 50-yarder when Pittsburgh was running down the clock in order to protect their lead.
Injuries were a big story on both sides throughout the night, as Pittsburgh lost a lot on the defensive side and Carolina lost Jonathan Stewart from an already depleted running back core. Cam Newton will not be feeling to well this week, although he did not come out of the game because of injury. His coach Ron Rivera said afterward that he took out his quarterback to protect him from more hits.
The Steelers lost Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, and Ike Taylor from their already very thin defense. All three look as if they could miss significant time, with Taylor’s broken arm looking to be the most serious injury of the three. The secondary was so thin already, so the loss of Taylor could have a major impact on Pittsburgh’s defense going forward, although it does look like he can return later in the year.
The Panthers had come into Sunday night looking very good in their first two wins and probably expected a win over the inconsistent Pittsburgh Steelers. The run game was just clicking too well for the Steelers and it helped them get a huge statement win over a very good Carolina team, 37-19. Next up the Panthers face another tough AFC North opponent when they travel to Baltimore, and the Steelers get another NFC South test when Tampa Bay comes to Heinz Field.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius