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Steelers dominant in 52-21 win

The Steelers dominated the Carolina Panthers, defeating them, 52-21, on a night where the Steelers could do no wrong.

The win, the Steelers fifth in a row, improves the team’s record to 6-2-1 and keeps them on top of the AFC North.

“Really big performance versus a really good team on a short week,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “It’s a lot to be proud of. But we are probably not that good. You get games like that sometimes. The ball gets rolling downhill. We are appreciative of it. It was a great atmosphere tonight. We’ll enjoy this long weekend and get ready to roll up our sleeves and fight again. Great night tonight, great atmosphere. Steelers Nation was out.”

Ben Roethlisberger finished the night completing 22 of 25 passes for 328 yards, with five touchdowns, and just one sack, and a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3, coming out early in the fourth quarter.

“We have a lot of weapons and the offensive line protects well,” said Roethlisberger. “I can’t say enough about how well they played. It’s a really good defense and they protected me tonight. It’s a good team win against a really good team.”

Seven different players scored, 10 players caught passes, and all three running backs were used and needed.

“I liked the contributions from a lot people,” said Tomlin. “We came in tonight with a mentality that we had to play everyone in a helmet. That is part of short week football. I thought everyone came with that spirit and we got contributions from a lot of people. The distribution of the ball on offense is reflective of that.”

James Conner carried the ball 13 times for 65 yards and a touchdown and added one catch for an eight-yard touchdown, before he was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.

“He is in the protocol,” said Tomlin. “I don’t know to what extent. I am sure we will have more information for you next time we come together.”

The defense sacked Cam Newton five times, and Vince Williams came up with a huge play on a pick six to give the Steelers their first lead of the game. The defense gave up just 242 total yards, the lowest output the Panthers have had all season.

The Panthers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when Cam Newton took them down the field on a nine-play, 75-yard opening drive that culminated in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey also had five carries for 40 yards on the drive, including a two-yard run on fourth-and-one from the Steelers 22-yard line.

It took no time at all for the Steelers to get it right back. Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster in stride around the 47-yard line and there was no catching him, taking it 75 yards for the touchdown to tie the game, 7-7.

The defense fed off the energy in Heinz Field. On the Panthers first play of the ensuing drive, T.J. Watt brought the pressure on Newton and Vince Williams made him pay, picking off the pass and returning it 17 yards for a touchdown, putting the Steelers ahead, 14-7.

They came back on the next drive with the same fire, allowing the Panthers a measly one yard and forcing a three and out.

The quick score attack slowed a little for the Steelers on the next drive, but this time the slow and steady approach was just fine. Roethlisberger led them on an eight-play, 61-yard drive, that was topped off with a two-yard touchdown run by James Conner, to extend the lead to 21-7. Some of the key plays on the drive were a 13-yard reverse by Smith-Schuster and a 13-yard run by Conner. The Steelers didn’t face a single third-down on the drive, something that has been a point of emphasis for them recently.

The defense, with the aid of sacks by Vince Williams and Cameron Heyward, stopped the Panthers, putting the ball back in the hands of their offense.

Roethlisberger mixed it up, with Roosevelt Nix pulling in 11 and five-yard receptions on the drive, while Brown got them downfield on a 34-yard grab. A six-yard loss on a sack backed them up, and they couldn’t convert on third down. Chris Boswell hit his longest field goal of the year, a 50-yarder, to keep the Steelers rolling, 24-7.

The frantic first half continued, this time it was the Panthers turn. Newton engineered a nine-play, 73-yard drive, once again connecting with McCaffrey, this time for a 25-yard scoring strike to cut the lead to 24-14.

Not to be outdone, Roethlisberger got the offense in overdrive. Ryan Switzer moved the chains with an 18-yard reception on third down. Roethlisberger went deep to Brown, who pulled it in while in stride at the 20-yard line and went to the house for a 53-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 31-14, a lead they would take into the half.

The Steelers got the ball to start the second half and marched right down the field. Roethlisberger completed six of seven passes, including a 12-yard strike to Vance McDonald in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, to extend the lead even further, 38-14. The 12-play, 75-yard drive was highlighted by a 13-yard reception by Ryan Switzer on third and five, and a nine-yard grab by Smith-Schuster on third-and-two.

Another key defensive stop meant another opportunity for Roethlisberger and company to go to work. McDonald fought for a first down on third-and-six, and on third-and-eight pulled in a 19-yard reception. On third-and-eight Roethlisberger scrambled for 17 yards, and took a hit to the head by Eric Reid, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game. Roethlisberger then connected with Jesse James for an eight-yard touchdown, and 45-14 lead.

Special teams got in on the act when Nix forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Anthony Chickillo recovered at the nine-yard line. Two plays later Roethlisberger hit Jaylen Samuels for a six-yard touchdown, and a 52-14 lead.

The Panthers cut into the lead slightly after a seven-play, 58-yard drive that was capped with a one-yard touchdown run by McCaffrey, to bring it to 52-21, which would be the final.

A detailed look at how they scored:

First Quarter: Steelers 0, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Cam Newton 20-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey.
Scoring Summary: 9-75-4:31

First Quarter: Steelers 7, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 75-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Scoring Summary: 1-75-0:11

First Quarter: Steelers 14, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Vince Williams 17-yard interception return for a touchdown.

First Quarter: Steelers 21, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: James Conner two-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 8-61-4:21

Second Quarter: Steelers 24, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 50-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 9-60-5:01

Second Quarter: Steelers 24, Panthers 14
Scoring Play: Cam Newton 25-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey.
Scoring Summary: 9-73-4:42

Second Quarter: Steelers 31, Panthers 14
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 53-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Scoring Summary: 4-75-1:56

Third Quarter: Steelers 38, Panthers 14
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 12-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald.
Scoring Summary: 12-75-6:42

Third Quarter: Steelers 45, Panthers 14
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger eight-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James.
Scoring Summary: 11-65-5:47

Fourth Quarter: Steelers 52, Panthers 14
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger six-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Samuels.
Scoring Summary: 2-9-0:15

Fourth Quarter: Steelers 52, Panthers 21
Scoring Play: Christian McCaffrey one-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 7-58-3:51

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