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Panthers Look to Build on Momentum

Carolina visits Pittsburgh for a Thursday Night showdown

Sharon Thorsland
November 07, 2018 - 10:12 am

Fresh off an impressive win over Tampa Bay, the Panthers hit the road for a Thursday night matchup with Pittsburgh. Both teams are riding win streaks – the Panthers have won three in a row, while the Steelers have piled up four straight wins to move to 5-2-1 on the season.

The Steelers boast an explosive offense that is averaging 415 yards per game, that's 4th in the NFL. They're racking up 28 points a contest and feature arguably the best receiver in the game in Antonio Brown. He's a six-time Pro Bowler who led the league in receiving last season and has 51 catches and 9 touchdowns this season. But Brown isn't the only receiving threat on this team - second-year player JuJu Smith-Schuster is having a breakout season with 53 catches and a pair of scores. And of course, they've got Big Ben getting them the ball. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ranks 5th in the NFL in passing with over 2500 yards and 16 touchdowns, he also has a pair of rushing touchdowns. “The thing that separates him is his ability to extend plays,” said Luke Kuechly. “He's a big physical guy, and he's got a bunch of good weapons around him.”

Another one of those weapons is his outstanding running back. And we're not talking about Le'Veon Bell. The Pro Bowler is still holding out in a contract dispute so second-year player James Conner is now lead back and he's come up big. Conner ranks 2nd in the NFL with 706 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, plus 38 catches and another score.

The Steelers defense runs a 3-4 scheme and is aggressive – they've got 26 sacks on the season, that's 4th in the NFL. And they're excellent against the run, allowing just 90 yards a game, good for 6th in the league. Veteran defensive end Cam Heyward anchors the front line, and the linebackers feature some young, athletic players at linebacker, including in T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, they've combined for 10 and ½ sacks and a pick six. Ryan Shazier remains out after suffering a serious spinal injury last December. The secondary was overhauled in the offseason and features several new starters, including former Packer safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh. Former Virginia Tech standout Terrell Edmunds is getting plenty of reps as a rookie.

This is a big game for the Panthers, who play four of their next five games on the road. It's a prime-time matchup, against a tough AFC opponent that has beaten them five straight times. The Panthers want to end that streak and keep their own winning streak going on a national stage. “It's an opportunity to play in front of the world,” said Thomas Davis. “Everybody's going to be tuned in, there's only going to be one game on and everybody gets to see what your team is really all about. We've just got to go out there and make it happen.”

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