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Inside the Steelers: Pittsburgh at Carolina Preview

For the first 30 minutes of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like world beaters as they were pasting Cleveland 27-3.

Over the past six quarters, however, the Steelers have been outscored 50-9.

Embarrassing to say the least.

Fortunate to be 1-1, the Steelers prepare to take on the unbeaten Carolina Panthers, who pulled away from Detroit in the 2nd half last week 24-7.

Early in the 1st half, Detroit contained Carolina’s offense, who were without starting running back DeAngelo Williams. Jonathan Stewart managed 38 yards rushing in his absence, and Cam Newton, playing in his first game of the season, was only 22-34 for 281 yards and a touchdown.

Carolina isn’t blessed with much offensive talent. Cam Newton has escapability, and a good arm, but he just doesn’t have much to play with when throwing the ball. Tight End Greg Olson leads the way the majority of the time. Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has all the tools to be a superb player in this league, and will continue to grow as the season progresses. Jason Avant is a decent option, but is better suited as a slot guy, instead of a top two WR. Jericho Cotchery, as he was with the Steelers, is Mr. Reliable when called upon. It isn’t a very flashy group. On the ground, the Panther’s boast the two headed monster of Williams and Stewart. Both have talent, but staying healthy has always been the bugaboo of this duo.

If there was ever a time for the Steeler’s defense to step up and take a leap forward, this is the one.

Carolina is strong defensively, as they usually are. Their front seven is as solid as any team has in the league. It’s the secondary that holds the Panther’s weakness, and it will be up the Ben Roethlisberger to exploit them, if the Steelers are to pull off the road victory.

Part of the front seven, however, will be missing All-Pro defensive end Greg Hardy, who is inactive due to legal issues.

The Steelers will be looking to Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to lead the way. Le’Veon Bell has been outstanding in the first two games. Bell has 168 yards rushing to go along with 136 yards receiving. Antonio Brown has 206 yards receiving and a TD. The problems plaguing the offense is the untimely turnovers and missed opportunities through dropped passes and off target throws. The return of receiver Lance Moore should provide a boost. Tackle Marcus Gilbert needs to step up his play as well, as he has been responsible for too many sacks against Roethlisberger. He basically got ran over as if he were a Pee-Wee player last week against the Ravens. Look for Big Ben and the offense to be in the no-huddle offense often, as well as in the shotgun formation to give Roethlisberger extra time to scan the field.

The new additions to the defense has led to chaos, but not the kind the Steelers were hoping for. Too often players are way out of position, leading to flailing arms grasping for nothing but air instead of making tackles. Over pursuit has been a major problem. This is the 3rd game, so hopefully, since the Steelers had ten days to prepare and study game tape, Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau and the rest of the defensive staff were able to find solutions to the problems that are killing this team. If not, even a dressed down Carolina offense could give the Steelers big time problems, and lead to a 1-2 start that the Steelers do not want to face. With Tampa Bay, who was killed by Atlanta 56-14 on Thursday Night Football, Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Houston pegged as the next four foes, the Steelers have opportunity knocking at the door for a fast start to the season, and a chance to wash away the bitter taste that the past six quarters have left in the Steeler’s mouths.

Somehow, someway, I envision the Steelers finding a way to right the ship and coming home with a 2-1 record. Roethlisberger, who was shaken up by a hard hit early in the Baltimore game, will be determined to bounce back from a bad night a week ago. Look for Pittsburgh to pullout a nail biter by a score of 20-16.

Game Information

Sunday, September 21st: Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (2-0), 8:30 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium. 

Televised by NBC Sunday Night Football.

Steelers lead the overall series against Carolina 4-1, outscoring the Panthers 138-58 in the process.

Game Notes

* Ben Roethlisberger needs 313 passing yards to record 35,000 in his NFL career to become the 12th quarterback to reach the milestone with one team.

* Last week was the first time since 2011 that Roethlisberger did not throw a touchdown pass in a regular season game.

* Le’Veon Bell’s next touchdown will be his 10th in his NFL career.

* Head Coach Mike Tomlin is 21-14 overall in prime time games, including a 10-9 record on the road. He is 7-2 on Monday Night Football, 9-8 on Sunday Night Football and 5-4 on Thursday Night Football.

Injury Report (9/19)

Pittsburgh: G Ramon Foster and RB Dri Archer are questionable.

Carolina: RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Mike Tolbert, WR Jason Avant, WR Jericho Cotchery, and LB Thomas Davis are all questionable.

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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