If it seems like it’s been awhile the Steelers took the playing field, your not the only one. The club had an extended break after their Thursday night 26-6 loss to the Ravens back on September 11th, and now the schedule makers have them taking on the defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers on the road.
The Panthers are off to a 2-0 start with a road win at Tampa, and a home win last week against the Detroit Lions. Led by a stinging defense and a solid offense led by Cam Newton, the Panthers will be another tough test for the Steelers who seem totally lost since scoring 27 points in the first half against the Browns back on September 7th.
Here’s three keys for the Black and Gold if they are going to escape from Carolina with a win Sunday night.
1. Protect Ben – Easier said then done, the Steelers have to find a way to keep Ben Roethlisberger on his feet against one of the best defensive lines in the league. Carolina has one of the best front sevens in all of football and has won eight straight regular-season home games, which is bad news for the Steelers. Thus far the Cats defense has forced three turnovers in each game this year and has seven sacks, fourth-best in the NFL. Marcus Gilbert needs to bounce back from a bad game vs the Ravens, as does Ramon Foster. It could be a LONG night for the line.
2. Gang Tackle against the Run – In two games, the Steelers run D has been just flat out awful. They have allowed 170 yards per game on the ground and things could get worse with DeAngelo Williams back in the Carolina backfield after a thigh injury kept him out last week. Mike Tomlin had nothing but praise for Williams as well as Jonathan Stewart, and these two can wear down a defense with off tackle and inside runs with a good Panthers offensive line. “Guys just aren’t making the tackles we need to make,” Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “A lot of times we get the guy stood up but don’t get him to the ground. There is a lot of yards after contact.” Tomlin said it’s about schemes and alignments, and this unit needs to get 2-3 guys to the ball to make sure the Panthers run game doesn’t run wild.
3. How about a turnover?! – Just like a season ago, the Steelers defense is off to a slow start when it comes to creating turnovers. Last year it took till the 5th game to get a turnover, and this year in 8 quarters again the team hasn’t gotten a takeaway. Combine that with the fact that the Panthers are one of four teams yet to turn the ball over yet, and the defense could be in for a tough go of it. It’s time for all these playmakers and the scheme designed by Dick LeBeau to find a way to make a play – or two, or three.
Prediction: From 8 quarters of Steelers football, this does not at all look like a good matchup when it comes to the group as well as individual matchups. The offense is in a total funk, and the defense isn’t far behind. Carolina has won 13 of their last 14 regular-season games at home, which doesn’t get talked about much, but they are one of the more consistent teams right now in the NFC. Sorry to say it, but again it’s going to be a prime time setback for the Black and Gold. Carolina 20 Steelers 12