In one of the most dominating performances we’ve seen from the Pittsburgh Steelers in some time, the Steelers rolled to a 52-21 win at home at Heinz Field on Thursday Night Football over the Carolina Panthers.
When the Steelers needed it, the game-defining plays went their way, leading to the 31-point win.
Like I do every week, I’ll take a crack at trying to pinpoint those five key plays that helped determine the outcome. Let’s get started.
Play 5 — 1st & 10 at PIT 39 (1:08 – 1st) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at PIT 44 for -5 yards (C.Heyward)
Earlier in Carolina’s fourth drive of the game with the Panthers trailing 21-7 and needing a spark, Vince Williams came through with an 8-yard sack of Cam Newton, putting the Panthers in a big hole early in the drive.
That didn’t phase the Panthers those as after that Carolina picked up chunk yards of 13, 15, and 13 yards to get Carolina into Pittsburgh’s territory at the 38-yard line.
That’s when Cam Heyward came through with a big 5-yard sack of Newton, running through Greg Van Roten for the sack, pushing the Panthers back to the 42-yard line. Unlike the Williams sack earlier in the drive, Heyward’s sack stymied the Panthers’ drive as Carolina was forced to punt the ball away after failing to pick up the first down.
After the punt, Pittsburgh scored again on a 50-yard field goal from Chris Boswell, making it a 24-7 game in favor of the Steelers.
Play 4 — 1st & 10 at PIT 25 (5:04 – 2nd) Christian McCaffrey Pass From Cam Newton for 25 Yrds G.Gano extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Jansen, Holder-M.Palardy
Trailing 24-7 and the game looking to get out of hand for the Panthers, Carolina responded with a big drive in the middle of the second quarter.
The drive looked much like the opening drive of the game for the Panthers as Newton carved up the middle of the field, and Christian McCaffrey got going on the ground again.
Following an 11-yard throw to Curtis Samuel in the middle of the field, and an 11-yard pass to DJ Moore, the Panthers found themselves at the Steelers’ 25-yard line. That’s when Newton found McCaffrey wide open in the flat, resulting in a 25-yard touchdown to make it a 24-14 game, keeping the Panthers in the game momentarily.
Play 3 —1st & 10 at PIT 47 (3:08 – 2nd) Antonio Brown Pass From Ben Roethlisberger for 53 Yrds C.Boswell extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry
The Steelers seemingly couldn’t miss on Thursday night, jumping all over the Panthers in primetime.
Holding a 10-point lead after McCaffrey’s 25-yard touchdown catch, the Steelers fired right back quickly, marching 75 yards in just four plays, chewing up just one minute, 56 seconds of game clock.
An 18-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Ryan Switzer on 3rd and 6 set up the Steelers at the 47-yard line. From there, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown deep down the right sideline over Donte Jackson for a 53-yard touchdown, making it a 31-14 game, all but putting the game out of reach.
Play 2 — 1st & 10 at PIT 25 (10:18 – 1st) JuJu Smith-Schuster Pass From Ben Roethlisberger for 75 Yrds C.Boswell extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry
Already in a 7-0 hole thanks to a 20-yard touchdown from Newton to McCaffrey to open the game, the Steelers responded in a fast way as Roethlisberger found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown behind the Panthers’ secondary on the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage, tying the game up at 7-7.
It was an important play because it got the Steelers’ offense off to a fast start following a rough opening drive by the Steeler defense.
From there, things started to roll downhill for the Steelers.
Play 1 — 1st & 10 at CAR 12 (10:05 – 1st) Vince Williams 17 Yd Interception Return (Chris Boswell Kick)
Just one play after Smith-Schuster’s 75-yard touchdown, the Steelers defense stepped up in a big way as on the first play from scrimmage on Carolina’s second possession.
TJ Watt raced in unblocked on a Newton bootleg to get his hands around the big Carolina quarterback in the end zone, forcing Newton to try and throw the ball away.
Instead, Newton fired off-balanced into the middle of the field, where Williams got his hands on the football for the interception at the 17-yard line. After the interception, Williams was able to make his way into the end zone to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead, which was a preview of things to come on a night in which Pittsburgh had an offensive explosion.
The pick-6 also seemed to rattle the Panthers’ attack, which struggled to get back on track until the middle of the second quarter, by which time they found themselves down 24-7.