Week 10 was kicked off at Heinz Field with a duel between two teams who were red-hot coming into this Thursday Night Football contest. The visiting Carolina Panthers were winners of their previous three games, with the host Pittsburgh Steelers winning their previous four.
Something had to give, and after the Panthers failed to nail the coin toss, the Steelers elected to defer to the second half, giving Cam Newton and company the football first to start the game.
It didn’t take the Panthers long to strike first. After three huge runs by Christian McCaffrey, the Steelers’ defense looked to have held the Panthers to a field goal, but Ron Rivera elected to go for it on 4th and 1. McCaffrey got two on the fourth down play, and following the first down Newton hit McCaffrey on a swing pass for a 20 yard touchdown. With less than 5 minutes gone in the first quarter, the Panthers took a 7-0 lead.
On the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage, Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster over the top for a stunning 75 yard catch and run for a touchdown.
After the Chris Boswell point after, the game was tied 7-7 in the blink of an eye.
Newton and company took the field deep in their own end after a holding call on the ensuing kickoff. When Newton tried to roll to his right, he was met by T.J. Watt in the endzone. Rather than taking a sack for a safety, he tried to force the ball to a receiver, only to have it picked off by Vince Williams and returned for a touchdown.
In the blink of an eye, the Steelers went from trailing 7-0, to leading 14-7. After the Pittsburgh defense forced a three-and-out, and the Steelers did what they had been doing every time they got the ball — scored touchdowns.
On the team’s first real offensive drive, it was a beautiful mix of short passes to Antonio Brown, a JuJu Smith-Schuster reverse and several punishing James Conner runs. The drive was capped off when Conner rumbled into the endzone for a two-yard touchdown giving the Steelers a 21-7 lead.
1️⃣1️⃣th of the season. pic.twitter.com/twfdk8NKPD— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 9, 2018
After a Carolina drive resulted in yet another punt, Roethlisberger and company went back to work and were able to add to their lead. This drive, which started at their own 8 yard line, had a little bit of everything. Roosevelt Nix had two receptions, and Antonio Brown burned the entire defense to get the team into field goal range. However, that is where the drive stalled, and a Chris Boswell 50-yard field goal made the score 24-7.
Needing a drive to stay in the game, Newton and McCaffrey responded in a big way by hitting McCaffrey again for his second receiving touchdown of the game with about 5:00 left on the clock in the second quarter.
5 minutes left on the clock, and two timeouts, was a lot of time left on the clock, and the Steelers wouldn’t even need that much time to strike again. After a key third down pass to Ryan Switzer, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a bomb down the sideline for the Steelers touchdown.
The Boswell point after kick made the score 31-17 with 3 minutes left in the first half. The 31-17 score would hold into halftime.
The second half started with the Steelers getting the football, and doing what they’ve done the entire game to this point. Roethlisberger continued to be money on third downs, hitting Switzer and Smith-Schuster for key conversions, and capped the drive off with a touchdown pass to Vance McDonald.
The Boswell point after was good, giving the Steelers a 38-14 lead with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.
Pittsburgh’s defense continued to harass Newton every time he dropped back to pass, and a big sack by Bud Dupree resulted in another three-and-out. When the Steelers’ offense had the football, they did one thing with it — add to their lead. This drive was no different. Roethlisberger continued to make several key third down completions, but the most controversial play happened on a 3rd and 8 when Roethlisberger scrambled for the first down, and while sliding Justin Reid hit him high with his shoulder. Reid was ejected from the game, and two plays later Roethlisberger hit Jesse James for his 4th touchdown pass of the night to make the score 45-14 at the end of the third quarter.
After the latest Steelers’ score, Roosevelt Nix caused a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Anthony Chickillo at the 9 yard line. Two plays later and Roethlisberger hit rookie Jaylen Samuels for a nifty catch-and-run for the touchdown. The Boswell point after made the score 52-14 in the early minutes of the fourth quarter.
This would end Roethlisberger’s night, and the Steelers started to empty their benches with B.J. Finney going in for Maurkice Pouncey, Joshua Dobbs in for Roethlisberger and many defenders getting some rest in the waning minutes of the game.
In garbage time, Newton and McCaffrey stayed in the game and were able to put together a scoring drive resulting in a McCaffrey touchdown run, his third touchdown of the game, making the score 52-21.
The score would hold as the final.
The win for the Steelers advances their record to 6-2-1, and now they have the ability to rest this weekend while the Cincinnati Bengals play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. On top of that, the team will have extra time to prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11 in Duval county.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they continue to press on throughout the regular season.