Steelers @ Panthers Week 15: Key Takeaways, Points and What We Saw
The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Carolina Panthers by setting the tone from kickoff on. With a 6-8 record and a road victory against Carolina, Pittsburgh’s AFC North title chances are dead, but a wild-card berth is still a slim possibility. Their ability to control and play the game at their own tempo was demonstrated by the Steelers’ 21-play drive to begin the second half, which occupied most of the third quarter. Pittsburgh tallied 91 yards and extended their advantage to 21-7 with a TD. The seven-pass, 14-run series was the longest in terms of plays and time of possession of any NFL team this season. Neither a block in the back nor a Diontae Johnson taunting penalty were able to derail it. It was also the Steelers’ longest possession in terms of plays and time since at least 2000. The Panthers rallied with 10 consecutive points to tie the game, and the Steelers’ several second-half penalties assisted them. But that one Steelers drive was enough to finish off the Panthers.
Carolina has seemed to drift away from their recent competitive play. The Panthers entered the game having won three of their past four games, and with legitimate aspirations of looking to win the NFC South crown, while the Buccaneers are continuing to struggle to put away their opponents. The Panthers’ recent success has been largely due to the run game and their situational defense, neither of which were visible on Sunday. They ran the ball 16 times for a season-low 21 yards. Interestingly, the Panthers abandoned their heavy-package run plays as indicated by the attempts, employing it on only a few of snaps in the first half, which was surprising given its success in previous games. The preceding three games, Carolina’s defense on third downs has been improved significantly, allowing only 35.8% of third-down conversions. Sunday? The Steelers were effective on 12 of their first 15 third-down attempts. This is how you lose a home game with significant stakes to Mitchell Trubisky.