Shortly after Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey crossed the goal line with a 20-yard touchdown catch to make it 7-0, visitors, a huge roar erupted on the other side of the bar. Were these people watching another contest, like soccer? Were they playing a super-intense game of trivia?
No, they were watching Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster reel in a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and take it to the house for a 75-yard touchdown catch and run to make it 7-7. Turns out, this Primanti Bros. had some of its many flat screen TVs tune into the NFL Network feed and others—including the one I was watching—tuned into Fox, which, for some strange reason, was on a seven-second delay.
That was my only complaint about the Steelers ridiculously dominant 52-21 victory over the Panthers at Heinz Field.
Do you have any complaints? Are you unhappy with McCaffrey’s first two touchdown catches in which Pittsburgh’s defense seemed to lose track of him out of the backfield? Hey, it’s the NFL, bleep happens. Do you expect the defense to never give up touchdowns?
Look at how many touchdowns Carolina’s defense yielded to the Steelers offense—seven. Not only that, Pittsburgh didn’t punt until early in the fourth quarter, which, not coincidentally—and no offense to him—came immediately after backup quarterback Josh Dobbs entered the game.
That’s right, Thursday’s handling of the Panthers was so harsh and thorough, Roethlisberger, the quarterback who always insists on being out there with his guys, saw his final action of the night when he found rookie running back Jaylen Samuels for a six-yard touchdown pass to make it 52-14.
There was 14:55 left in the fourth quarter.
That touchdown pass to Samuels was Roethlisberger’s fifth of the night, a night that saw the decorated quarterback add more trinkets to his uniform, thanks to a perfect passer-rating of 158.3. I don’t know how to calculate a quarterback-rating, but completing 22 of 25 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns is obviously one way to do it.
Do you want to complain about running back James Conner not tallying 100 yards for the first time since September 30? He probably would have had it not been for a premeditated decision of lessening the wear and tear on him by dividing the labor to other backs—including Stevan Ridley and Samuels, who combined to match Conner’s total of 13 carries on the night. Even if you take away Roethlisberger’s 18-yard scamper—a play that occurred late in the third quarter and would have caused me to get evicted from my apartment building had he actually scored—Pittsburgh’s offense still tallied 120 rushing yards on 27 carries.
Not a bad performance on a night that you decide to give your newly-minted workhorse running back a bit of a breather on a short week.
Pittsburgh’s offense posted 457 yards—including 319 through the air and 138 on the ground. It scored on all four of its trips inside the red zone—an area on the field new offensive coordinator has become quite adept at in his first season in charge. The Steelers were eight of 11 on third downs—including eight of nine before—again, no offense to him—Dobbs replaced Roethlisberger early in the fourth quarter. The time of possession could have been a little better than 30:35, and it may have been had Carolina’s defense provided a bit more resistance.
As for the Steelers defense, how can you possibly have anything to complain about?
Keith Butler’s unit yielded a measly 242 yards and three touchdowns, with 60 of those yards and one of those touchdowns coming in garbage time.
Seven of the Panthers 11 possessions ended in either a punt, a fumble or a pick-six. That pick-six was recorded by inside linebacker Vince Williams, who was the guy responsible for losing track of McCaffrey on his first touchdown just moments earlier. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt was the guy who pressured Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into the errant pass that floated harmlessly into Williams’ arms. Watt also had one of the team’s five sacks on the night, as the defense provided constant pressure on Newton, who looked far from the NFL MVP he was just three years earlier.
Heck, even Chris Boswell got into the act, by kicking a 50-yard field goal and—believe it or not—connecting on all seven of his extra point attempts.
Holy bleep, the Steelers scored seven touchdowns on Thursday!
So, finally, I don’t want you to respond to this article with your usual “I don’t know....” or “Great win, however........”
The only thing the Steelers gave you to complain about on Thursday was not being able to complain.