The Carolina Panthers, despite all the doom and gloom predicted in the preseason, are looking more and more like a team that can make a Super Bowl run, especially with Cam Newton healthy. The Pittsburgh Steelers look quite shaky once again going into this game, with their big Achilles heel, surprisingly, being their defense.
The Panthers, 2-0, and hoping to get their first 3-0 start since the 2003 season, are having no such problems on defense despite Greg Hardy not playing, now finding himself on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list, which at its simplest form means he can’t play, and probably won’t until his hearing on November 17 for the domestic abuse charges he’s facing. The Panthers actually seem to improve on defense compared to last season, although the Buccaneers (playing without Cam Newton) and the Detroit Lions might not be the best of measuring sticks.
They’ve gotten to the quarterback seven times and have forced six turnovers so far (three in each game). They’re on a unique run in regular season games with 13 wins on their last 14 games, including eight straight at home and winning by 16.6 points per game. They’ve been allowing just 86 yards on the ground per game which means the Steelers, whose only reliable player so far this season has been Le’Veon Bell, might be in for another difficult game.
Ben Roethilsberger had a rough outing in a 26-6 loss to Baltimore as the Steelers turned the ball over three times and their quarterback finished with just 22-of-37 for 217 yards, getting very little help from the offensive line, which continues to be a source of problem for the Steelers a third year in a row. Their defense isn’t doing much better. They haven’t scored a touchdown in six consecutive quarters since putting up 27 points in the first half during a week 1 (30-27) win over the Cleveland Browns.
They’ve given up 712 passing yards in both games combined. They’ve given up 50 points over the last six quarters of football. They still haven’t forced a turnover, and the Panthers have yet to commit one this season. The Steelers are also struggling with discipline, as they’ve been called for 20 penalties, costing them 171 yards up to this point in the season. Bell with his 304 yards from scrimmage, second best in the league so far, seems to be the only shining light. They’ve also given up 348 yards on the ground, fourth worst in the NFL.
The Panthers aren’t an explosive team, but their receiver situation seems to be better this season. The running attack, not including Cam Newton, has got to get better as well. This team seems to be on the verge of long term success after quite a few years of disappointment and building. A convincing win against the Steelers, who seem to be the same .500’ish team over the last two seasons, and a lot more will be convinced about the chances of the Panthers to not just make the playoffs this season, but go on a little bit further.