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Panthers' injured backfield benefits Steelers' poor run defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the third-worst run defense in the NFL after two weeks. Luckily for the Steelers, the Carolina Panthers are experiencing lots of injuries to a very deep backfield.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Look at the Carolina Panthers' depth chart at running back and you see a stable of capable running backs including Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker. Not a bad cast of characters to tote the football and boost a team's running game.

But look at the Panthers' injury report and you'll see almost every one of these names listed as a question mark heading into the Week 2 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

Williams has been out with a thigh injury since the Panthers' Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tolbert suffered a bruised sternum in last week's win over the Detroit Lions and Fozzy Whitaker has a quadriceps injury that has kept him out of practice this week.

That leaves Jonathan Stewart as the team's only healthy running back.

For the Steelers, the Panthers' injury bug couldn't have come at a better time. The Steelers have struggled to stop the run in their first two weeks of play and, against a team that thrives on the run, missing any combination of those running backs will only improve Pittsburgh's chances of being able to force quarterback Cam Newton to win the game with his arm.

As Mike Tolbert told Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, "I hope so, but we are banged-up in the backfield," "So this might be a game where we lean more on Cam (Newton) in the passing game."

The Steelers can only hope that's how the game plays out in Charlotte, NC, this Sunday, as a depleted group of running backs will only boost the Steelers chances of getting their first road win in 2014 and heading back to Pittsburgh 2-1.

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