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‘Like Goal Line In The Middle Of The Field:’ DC Teryl Austin On Defending Panthers ‘Arby’s’ Package

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a run-first team for the third straight week. This time, it’s the Carolina Panthers, who employ several unique packages that the team must prepare for. This includes a package that features eight offensive linemen, their “Arby’s package”, a rare NFL sight that poses a challenge for Pittsburgh.

“Yeah, that’s kind of neat. It’s like goal line in the middle of the field,” Steelers’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said when asked about the formation according to a transcript provided by the team. “It’s kind of unique, but it shows their commitment to the run game. I think Steve [Wilks] has really gone, ‘hey, this is the type of team we want to be, we’re going to be a physical team, we’re going to play good defense and play the field position.’ I think it shows a commitment to those guys, ‘hey, listen, this is how we’re going to get it done, so let’s do it.’ Kudos to him.”

Much like the Steelers, the Panthers have seen a resurgence in their run game after a slow start. Indeed, they started 1-5 and rushed for 90 yards per game to start the season. Since that, they fired head coach Matt Rhule and traded star running back Christian McCaffrey. As a result, they have embraced the run game, rushing for 154.6 yards per game en route to a 4-3 record since Week 7.

The Panthers’ formation with eight linemen is rare in the NFL, and usually only seen in goal-line situations. As Austin pointed out, it speaks to their commitment to the run game, as the team has fully embraced the identity.

“We call it Arby’s – we have the meats,” said Panthers’ starting left guard Brady Christensen in reference to the formation according to Panthers.com. “That’s a lot of meat out there. That’s what we kept saying all week.”

In their recent victory against the Seattle Seahawks, the Panthers ran the ball a staggering 46 times, controlling the ball and beating a talented group. While this formation is unorthodox, it worked last week in their game plan, and the Steelers should expect it this coming Sunday.

With defensive end Chris Wormley recently being injured, the Steelers’ defensive line depth may struggle against this heavy formation. Not to mention, this is a run defense that struggled of late, allowing over 200 yards to the Baltimore Ravens and having a poor second-half showing against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Panthers have a lot to play for, certainly more than the Steelers. Fivethirtyeight has their playoff odds at 31%, compared to the Steelers’ 0.2%. This is a team that found an identity and is playing in an NFC South division that is up for grabs. The Steelers must prepare to defend the run on Sunday, or they will lose the time of possession battle and potentially be eliminated from the playoffs.

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