Thursday night at home the Steelers did exactly what they were supposed to do – pound a bad football team into submission. Because of the 27-3 win over the two-win Panthers, the Steelers are one win away of getting the first round bye they sorely need, and also winning their third division title in four seasons.
The Steelers didn’t give the Panthers room to breathe after Carolina started the game with an early drive that reached the Pittsburgh 32. Carolina decided to punt, and from there they never stood a chance.
Last season in a similar situation, the Steelers blew a game to the then 1-11 Browns on the road. This night they were not going to allow the Panthers to have visions of walking out of Heinz Field with an upset win that would have crushed the Steelers march to the postseason.
Ben Roethlisberger lead the Steelers offensive attack that was effective to the tune of three touchdown drives, two field goal drives, and not having to have Jeremy Kapinos punt till there was 3:44 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers QB set a personal record for passing yards in the first half, and ended the night with 320 yards on 22-for-32 passing with a touchdown and a QB rating of 111.5. He was helped with a solid night from the offensive line, and the return of tight end Heath Miller who had five grabs for 73 yards.
Mike Wallace had the best night of the WR core, with four catches for 104 yards with a 43-yard touchdown catch on a quick throw in the second quarter that gave the Steelers a commanding 10-0 lead with 10:16 left in the second quarter.
The offense had a big second quarter with two touchdown drives, a field goal drive and 191 total yards while the Panthers offense was held to one yard the entire quarter in four possessions.
Jimmy Clausen was punished for the Panthers, as the rookie QB never stood a chance against a Steelers defense that took out their anger after losing to the Jets Sunday. The former Notre Dame QB went just 10-for-23 for 72 yards. He was sacked four times for negative 27 yards, and also threw a pick that Bryant McFadden made in the 17-point Steelers second quarter.
The Panthers run game was also held in check, and Jonathan Stewart had a couple chunks of yards here and there, but the Panthers had just 74 yards on 22 carries, and none of the Stewart runs really hurt the Steelers at any time. Pittsburgh rushed for 115 yards on 33 carries, with Rashard Mendenhall running for 65 yards and a score.
There was not much that the Steelers didn’t do right in this beating. They outgained Carolina 408 to 119, had 21 first downs while holding the Panthers to 7, and they held the ball for 35:24 to 24:36 for the Panthers. It was a complete beating that is exactly what the team needed as they now sit back and wait 10 days before wrapping up the regular season in Cleveland.
It’s pretty basic what lies ahead for Pittsburgh. If the Browns can upset the Ravens, next weeks game vs the Browns means nothing. If Baltimore does what they should, which is beat the bad Browns, it will be up to Pittsburgh to make sure they take care of business against the Browns in order to clinch the division and the #2 seed in the AFC so they can get the all important bye and be one game away from the AFC Championship game.