Gridiron Gab Week Sixteen Preview – Carolina at Pittsburgh

The Steelers are on a short week, playing their first Thursday night game since last December’s awful game in Cleveland, the final loss they had of the 2009 season. Now things are a lot different, as they play a Panthers team that is 2-12, and the Steleers have already clinched a playoff spot, and are two wins or a Ravens loss away from clinching the North, and they should be also able to clinch the #2 seed in the AFC. With that, here’s our keys and prediction for the matchup with the Panthers.

1. Force Turnovers – Last week the Steelers were unable to get any turnovers from the Jets, this after the week before Mark Sanchez was a fumbling machine and also threw two picks. This week the team should be able to get to and force rookie QB Jimmy Clausen into some mistakes. The Steelers again need to make sure when they get the chance, to force mistakes, and also look for possibly RB Jonathan Stewart to cough up the ball like he did late against the Cardinals last week.

2. Put it Away Early – The Panthers are 2-12 for a reason, simply put, they are not very good. Allowing them to even be in this game by the start of the fourth quarter would be a letdown, this from a team that wants to be playing its best ball before the playoffs start. Carolina is going to be entering a cold, hostile environment, and a fast start should have them warming the bus early.

3. Keep Ben Upright – Same as last week, as the O-line did a solid job of not allowing Ben to have to scramble for his life, and though he was sacked three times, one was on a fumble after the ball got stripped. With Trai Essex back in at LT, the line seemed to play better on the last drive, and the Panthers don’t have much of a pass rush, putting up just 29 sacks, or 2.2 sacks per game. The O-line has taken a beating this season, and this is a game where they should easily contain the Panthers defense.

Prediction – There’s no question that this shouldn’t be much of a game, and that’s a good thing on a short week for the Steelers, who then will have plenty of time to get ready for the season finale against the right now 5-9 Browns in a game they may need to wrap up the division and the #2 seed. The Panthers have little to offer on offense, and they have given up points in bunches on the road, 85 in their last three road games. The Steelers should be able to put up 24-30 points, and their D should make Clausen eat dirt a more than a few times. Pittsburgh 28 Carolina 7

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2 Responses to “Gridiron Gab Week Sixteen Preview – Carolina at Pittsburgh”

  1. Phil S says:

    Completely agree on this!

    Pittsburgh might have a few questions (like almost every team not named New England) … but in no way should they even let the Panthers make this a game.

    My guess is this game is over by halftime …

    • Chris Bach says:

      Matt Flynn, in his first career NFL start, was able to complete passes easily on Patriot corners.

      I agree with all your assessments except, perhaps, the one about cold weather. Maybe Jimmy Clausen will shut it down if he’s tired of losing but a lot of these guys have played well in the cold and it gets cold in North Carolina. John Fox coaches these guys to be tough on defense, even the back-ups that have had to play.

      I agree also that it will be a letdown if Carolina is even in the game. That said, winning the game DOES get you one step closer to getting an extra week to work out what’s wrong. The Panthers hung close to the Saints in one meeting and their defense kept them in the Bears game while Clausen was imploding everywhere.

      If it is a close game, Steelers fans and just NFL fans should remember that a lot of the young or just rebuilding teams are going to play their best at the end of the year as they adjust to the level of play, schemes and surrounding players. It is a shame Eric Mangini might be fired because I think he’s quite good and the Browns will put up an even stronger fight than the Panthers as they fight for his job and decide the fate of the AFC North.