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The BTSC Delorean: Looking back at the most memorable Steelers vs. Panthers contests

The most memorable matchups between the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Photo By Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Steelers and Panthers are very similar teams, with the Carolina team rumored to be modeled after the Rooney’s franchise upon their inception in 1995. They do not have a storied history, only playing one another eight times in 28 seasons. In that time, Pittsburgh holds a 6-1 record.

Here’s a brief tale of the tape:

Points: Steelers 227, Panthers 98

Wins: Steelers 6, Panthers 1

Home Record: Steelers 4-0, Panthers 1-2

Shutouts: 0

Biggest Win Margin: 12/17/2006 - Steelers 37, Panthers 3

Closest Game: 12/22/1996 - Panthers 18, Steelers 14

Overtime Games: 0

Postseason Record: None

12/22/1996 - Panthers 18, Steelers 14

Twas three days before Christmas and nothing was finah then the Steelers having already clinched the AFC Central and playing in sun-shiny Carolina. The first meeting with a second-year team that inexplicably won six straight and featured former team defensive coordinator Dom Capers as the Panthers Head Coach, and Hall of Famer Kevin Greene one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance with the Steelers, the 10-6 Steelers had a postseason ducat stamped, but, as the losers of two-of-three, Bill Cowher’s team was desperately in need of a win.

Carolina started with great field position and Kerry Collins engineered a 10-play drive that was capped-off by avoiding a rush and delivering a perfect 9-yard scoring lob to tight end Wesley Walls. After a plethora of punts, Mike Tomczak was sacked by Chad Cota, and Jerome Bettis was stopped for a three-yard loss on a pass. Then the Panthers got two points on an intentional grounding penalty on Tomczak for a safety and a 9-0 lead as the second quarter began. The Steelers couldn’t move the ball when Darren Perry sacked Collins, the ball came free, and Bill Johnson recovered. But the Men of Steel fared better when Willie Williams recovered Howard Griffith’s fumble on the Panthers 7, and Tomczak’s scoring toss to Andre Hastings and a Norm Johnson extra point made the score 9-7. The Steelers special teams had a flare for trickery and recovered an onside kick on the ensuing Johnson delivery, but a Kordell Stewart interception by Toi Cook killed that mojo. Good thing the Steelers forced a three-and-out to give Stewart a chance at redemption, which he took for an 80-yard dash to glory and a 14-9 lead at intermission.

The story of the second half for the Steelers was a defense that held firm and only gave up three John Kasay field goals to make the score 18-14. But on the other side of the ball, it was offensive ineptitude as two drives ended in Kordell Stewart fourth-down incompletions. A third possession and a chance for the win on the Carolina 8-yard line fell short, as an interception thieved by Chad Cota with :29 seconds left sealed the deal for Carolina. It would be the only win in the history of the series to this point.

12/26/1999 - Steelers 30, Panthers 20

It’s only fitting that on the day after the final Christmas of the 20th Century and with the threat of Armageddon and Y2K, the Steelers hosted a Snow-mageddon game. But it didn’t start out that way. The Steelers, enduring their first losing season at Three Rivers Stadium in their history, were trying to put the trying season away on a positive note. Bill Cowher’s team looked like they could do just that with a 46-yard Kris Brown field goal on the game’s opening drive, but it looked like Carolina had different plans when Mike Minter intercepted a Mike Tomczak pass intended for Matt Cushing and returned it all the way to the Pittsburgh 5. After a gain of four to get to the doorstep, Fred Lane tried to finish things up with a one-yard burst, but was nailed by the Steelers’ Team MVP, Levon Kirkland, and safety Travis Davis picked-up the ball, gained a Deebo-esque convoy of blockers, and took the ball 102-yards the other day for the score. At the time, it was second-longest fumble return for a touchdown in NFL history (now it’s the third) to give the Steelers a 10-0 lead. Lane would get his rushing touchdown. a 41-yarder, on the next series, but so would Richard Huntley (72 yards) from 25 out. After a Steve Buerlein scoring dart of 88-yards to Patrick Jeffers, a rare 1990’s touchdown reception by Hines Ward, and another Buerlein-Jeffers collaboration of 43 right before the half, saw the score at 23-20 with flurries starting to fall.

The weather after intermission was a stark contrast from the beginning of the game, with Three Rivers Stadium a virtual whiteout. With Jerome Bettis slapping snow tires on, The Bus (137 yards rushing) was better than a plow as the passing offenses were rendered powerless. With less than four minutes remaining in the football century for the Steelers, an 8-yard Bettis touchdown and a Scott Shields pick of Buerlein iced the game at 30-20. The Steelers would finish the season with a loss a week later, but the win in the harsh elements would mature this team for a run of excellence in the new millennium.

12/15/2002 - Steelers 30, Panthers 14

Having suffered, not their most, but one of their most embarrassing home losses in history against the Texans the week before, Tommy Maddox and Co. reverted back to their postseason form at Heinz Field against the visiting Carolina Panthers. John Fox’ team, who hung 52 points on the Cincinnati Bengals the week before, was looking for a clean sweep of the AFC North. But it was the Steelers needing to get back on track to get some extra games added to their itinerary.

It was the Steelers that would get on board first with a touchdown toss from Maddox to Plaxico Burress, rebounding from a disastrous game with 6 dropped passes the previous week, reeled in six balls for 120 yards. Then Mike Minter put the Panthers in position to tie things up when he intercepted Maddox and returned the ball 62 yards to the Steelers 4, where Rodney Peete finished off things with a touchdown pass to Dee Brown. With two Jeff Reed field goals from 31 and 41, the home team took a 13-7 lead into the Heinz Field locker room.

Midway through the second half, a Steve Smith fumble was jumped on by beardless rookie Brett Keisel which became a Jerome Bettis touchdown ramble from the 9 to make things 20-7. The Panthers would claw back slightly with a Dee Ford touchdown run early in Quarter No. 4 to narrow the led to six, but that was the end of it. Another Reed field goal extended the lead even more, Then, as a quarter earlier, the Panthers would lose a fumble with Brett Keisel recovering this time. Again, it became a Jerome Bettis touchdown ramble, but from the 8 to set the final at 30-14.

Besides further cementing themselves atop the North, Hines Ward becomes the first Steeler with 100 receptions in a season on this day. But an even bigger story was the defense who, held the Panthers to 131 total yards on the afternoon, including only 6 yards rushing and -6 passing in the first half, as well as forcing for Carolina turnovers.

12/23/2010 - Steelers 27, Panthers 3

It was two days before Christmas and the black and gold were en route to another North Division crowning at 10-4. The Steelers wouldn’t start off too fast in this one though. Late in the opening stanza, Ben Roethlisberger drove his team down to a 3rd and 7 at the 8-yard line, but his scoring pass to Emmanuel Sanders was negated to the dismay of the home crowd as Sanders was deemed to be out of bounds. A field goal from the foot of Shaun Suisham was settled for. Pittsburgh would finally get in the end zone in Q2 after Bryant McFadden intercepted a Jimmy Clausen pass intended for David Gettis. Big Ben’s short toss to Mike Wallace was raced all the way to glory by No. 17 for a 10-0 lead. Despite losing a Hines Ward fumble, the Men of Steel would up the score to 20-0 at the half behind a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run and another Suisham field goal, this time from 29. Big Ben rules the Panthers, hitting 13 of his first 15 passes in the first 30 minutes.

The second half didn’t really get better for Carolina. John Fox’ Panthers merely managed a field goal in the second half, as they were brutalized by the Steelers defense as Jimmy Clausen could only manage to go 10/23 for 72 yds and was sacked four times (James Farrior, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woolley). The Carolina running game only managed just 74 rushing on the ground on a silent night. The Steelers would add a Big Ben scoring run after a 35-yard catch-and-run by Sanders, as the Steelers would romp by the score of 27-3. On offense for the black and gold, the home team would outgain Carolina 408-119. Ben, despite re-bloodying his nose, would go for 320 after completing 22 of 32. Other leaders for the offense included Mendy (65 yards rushing and a score), Wallace (6 catches for 104 yards) with his sixth 100-yard game of the season, and Heath Miller (5 catches for 73 yards). The Steelers, now 11-4, would be hurried to get to their homes for Christmas as their work home was being converted to an ice rink for the 2011 Winter Classic between the Capitals and Penguins.

11/08/2018 - Steelers 52, Panthers 21

When two hot teams collide on Thursday Night Football for the whole world to see four months and four days removed from the Fourth of July, you can expect fireworks. That is exactly what occurred with the visiting Carolina Panthers, winners three straight, and the host Steelers, winners of their previous four.

It didn’t take the Panthers long to strike first. After four huge runs by Christian McCaffrey, including two on a fourth down-play, QB Cam Newton hit McCaffrey on a swing pass for a 20-yard touchdown. The hosts didn’t need nearly as long to counter as Ben Roethlisberger hooked-up with JuJu Smith-Schuster over the top for a stunning 75 yard catch and run for the score to even. Deep in his own territory to follow, Newton’s encounter with T.J. Watt in the end zone should have resulted in a safety but No. 1 errantly tried to make something happen, only to have it picked off by Vince Williams and returned for a touchdown. Just like that, the Men of Steel led 14-7. But after a three and out, more points would be added after a mix of short passes to Antonio Brown, a Smith-Schuster reverse and several punishing James Conner runs on the Steelers first real drive of the night ended in No. 30 pounding it in the endzone for a two-yard touchdown. Tack on a Chris Boswell 50-yard field goal and the score would be 24-7 with 9:46 remaining in the second quarter.

The Panthers weren’t ready to retreat into the Steel City night though. Needing a drive to stay in the game, Newton responded in a big way by finding McCaffrey again for his second receiving touchdown of the game with 5:04 left before intermission. That was too much time for Roethlisberger though, as his bomb to AB of 53 yards down the sideline for the Steelers touchdown set the score at 31-14.

The second half started with the Steelers getting the football and continuing the assault with a scoring pass to Vance McDonald, a big Bud Dupree sack to force another three-and-out, and a Jesse James touchdown reception of eight yards to make the score 45-14 at the end of the third quarter. After the James score, Roosevelt Nix caused a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Anthony Chickillo at the 9, resulting in rookie Jaylen Samuels nifty catch-and-run for Big Ben TD pass No. 5 and 52-14 score. The Panthers would add another meaningless McCaffrey touchdown to appease the fantasy gods, but at 52-21, the night belonged to the heroes in hypocycloids, advancing their record to 6-2-1.