Donte Jackson said “it doesn’t get any better” than the Carolina Panthers’ Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Captain Munnerlyn called it a chance for Carolina to prove it’s “something serious.”
The only thing the Panthers proved is they’re not the top-tier team they’d looked like over the past two weeks. Pittsburgh scored on its first seven possessions en route to a 52-21 blowout on national television.
Even the brightest optimist would have trouble finding the silver lining in this one. Carolina’s offensive line couldn’t protect its quarterback and its defensive line couldn’t pressure Pittsburgh’s. Its offense couldn’t stay on the field on third down and its defense couldn’t get off. The Panthers’ receivers didn’t separate and its secondary didn’t cover.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was literally perfect (well, he finished with a perfect passer rating).
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Three who mattered
Christian McCaffrey: The lone bright spot on either side of the ball for the Panthers caught all five of his targets for 61 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 77 yards and another touchdown. He also struggled in pass protection throughout the night, so this comes with a bit of an asterisk.
Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger’s night ended early in the fourth quarter with a perfect, 158.3 passer rating. He completed 22-of-25 passes for 328 yards and five scores, probably winning someone’s fantasy matchup for the week.
T.J. Watt: He’s looking more and more like his older brother, J.J., every week. Watt wrapped Newton up in the end zone, forcing an errant throw and a pick-six, and continued to bully Carolina’s offensive line the rest of the night, finishing with a sack and two QB hits.
▪ The Panthers delivered flowers Thursday to the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting on Oct. 27. Pittsburgh native and Panthers owner David Tepper lived three blocks away from the synagogue as a grad student.
▪ The Steelers scored 14 points in a 16-second span in the first quarter, when Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster connected for a 75-yard touchdown on their first play of the game and Vince Williams returned a Newton interception for a touchdown on the next play from scrimmage.
▪ The 45 points Carolina allowed through three quarters tied a franchise-high set in 2001.
▪ Safety Eric Reid was ejected for a hit to Roethlisberger’s helmet late in the third quarter.
▪ McCaffery has scored seven of the Panthers’ last 13 touchdowns.
▪ Cam Newton inexplicably remained in the game midway through the fourth quarter with Carolina trailing 52-14.
▪ Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was cited Thursday morning for driving more than 100 mph on a road outside downtown Pittsburgh.
▪ Donte Jackson celebrated his 23rd birthday Thursday. It probably won’t go down as his favorite.
▪ Carolina gave up a touchdown to an opposing tight end for the eighth consecutive game.
They said it
“I’ve said a lot of times, people don’t appreciate how great the guys are about doing things in the community. It’s great to see, it’s not surprising to see.” – Panthers owner David Tepper on Cam Newton’s pregame cleats, which paid respect to the victims of the Oct. 27 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Marcel Louis-Jacques, 704-358-5015: @Marcel_LJ