National Football League
Preview
Pittsburgh at Carolina
When: 8:30 PM ET, Sunday, September 21, 2014
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina


The Carolina Panthers will be without Greg Hardy but they expect a ferocious defense to remain their calling card as they prepare to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The Panthers have allowed an NFC-low 21 points in winning their first two games, even though the Pro Bowl defensive end was deactivated last week stemming from his involvement in a domestic assault case. Hardy had 15 sacks last season but was placed on the exempt/commissioner's permission list.

Defense used to be the calling card of the Steelers, but the once-proud unit appears in need of a serious overall after getting manhandled in last week's 26-6 loss at archrival Baltimore. Since a stirring first half in the season opener in which Pittsburgh built a 24-point halftime lead over Cleveland, the Steelers have managed only three field goals while surrendering 50 points. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” veteran cornerback Ike Taylor cautioned. "We do have to get better overall. As a group, we have to look back and correct the mistakes."

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Panthers -3.5. O/U: 42

ABOUT THE STEELERS (1-1): After barely holding off a furious comeback in a 30-27 opening win over the Browns, Pittsburgh was unable to cope with a punishing ground game for the second straight week and ranks 30th in rushing yards allowed (174.0). Ben Roethlisberger followed up a 365-yard performance in Week 1 by throwing for only 217 yards and an interception versus Baltimore. The one constant for the Steelers has been second-year running back Le'Veon Bell, who has rushed for 168 yards and caught 11 passes for 136 more in the two games. “It’s definitely something I take pride in, being an all-around back,” Bell said Wednesday after practice. “I still look at myself as a running back who can catch the ball.”

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (2-0): Cam Newton returned to the lineup after missing the season-opening 20-14 victory at Tampa Bay and guided Carolina to a 24-7 win over Detroit by throwing for 281 yards and a TD on 22-of-34. With the top four wide receivers from last season gone, tight end Greg Olsen has been the top target with 14 receptions while first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin is averaging 17.3 yards on his eight catches. DeAngelo Williams sat out last week and did not practice again Thursday, putting oft-injured Jonathan Stewart in line for another start after gaining 37 yards on 15 carries a week ago. The Panthers, who ranked second in points allowed (15.1) last season, had four sacks without Hardy last week and seven on the season.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Pittsburgh has won four straight versus Carolina - all by double digits - but the teams haven't met since 2010.

2. The Panthers have won eight straight regular-season games at home.

3. Steelers WR Antonio Brown has at least five catches and 50 yards receiving in 18 straight games, one shy of Laveranues Coles' NFL record.

PREDICTION: Panthers 20, Steelers 19
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
Pittsburgh 1-1 L1 18.0 26.5 1-0 0-1 1-0 0-1 0-0 1-1 1-1
Carolina 2-0 W2 22.0 10.5 1-0 1-0 2-0 0-0 0-0 1-0 2-0
Last Meeting
Pittsburgh Carolina
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
8/28/14 CAR 10 PIT 0 185 106 79 314 100 214
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Pittsburgh M. Adams 0.0 0 0 0
Carolina M. Addison 0.0 0 0 0
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh M. Adams 0 0 0.0 0
Carolina M. Addison 0 0 0.0 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh M. Adams 0 0 0.0 0
Carolina M. Addison 0 0 0.0 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Pittsburgh M. Adams 0
Carolina M. Addison 0
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Pittsburgh B. Roethlisberger 63.4 582 1 2
Carolina C. Newton 64.7 281 1 0
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh L. Bell 32 168 5.2 1
Carolina D. Williams 14 72 5.1 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Pittsburgh A. Brown 12 206 17.2 1
Carolina G. Olsen 14 155 11.1 1
Touchdowns Player TD
Pittsburgh L. Bell 1
Carolina J. Avant 1