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5 reasons the Steelers will beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 3

The defending NFC South champs are stacked, make no mistake, but the Steelers are capable of pulling off the upset on Sunday Night Football.

Grant Halverson
A bit of R&R

The Steelers are just under .500 in the franchise's lifetime (20-21) on Sunday Night Football. But typically, the week following Thursday Night Football games, they play well. The added rest is one thing, but the extra time needed to fix what's needed is critical, especially given where this team is early this season. Expect a better prepared team (including an offensive coordinator who makes the flight) with a stronger sense of what it's supposed to be doing on defense. The miscommunication, the lack of proper alignment, all these things can be fixed with a bit of film review, and the Steelers have had that over the last 10 days.

Fighting fire with fire

The Panthers' pass rush is going to land a few sacks in this game. That's a given. There's just too much talent in the front seven to expect a Steelers' slow-starting, pass protection unit to pitch a shutout. Knowing that, the Steelers can adjust their offensive game plan to try to take advantage of a lesser-talented secondary and find ways to get the ball downfield. Not an every-play pace, mind you, but one in which the Steelers will have the opportunity to do so if Roethlisberger is flushed out of the pocket in a certain direction. They can work-in deeper routes that take advantage of his ability to escape pressure and deliver a throw down the field. The short stuff will also have to be incorporated, but expect the Steelers to take shots down the field more often.

Conflicting Kuechly

Odds aren't good this will be another 200-yards-from-scrimmage performance from Le'Veon Bell, but expect the Steelers to show they'll run the ball inside, with the ideal scenario to get Bell and Antonio Brown working in concert in those short-field routes. Panthers' All-World linebacker Luke Kuechly is excellent in space, and he's going to notice both Brown and Bell in his zone coverage. The Steelers will have to put him into conflict; running two receivers in his direction and going to the one he isn't covering is about all you can do. Expect the Steelers to run a lot more pre-snap motion and do anything else they can to put Kuechly into conflict.


One of Detroit's failures in Week 2 was their lack of ability to diversify their offensive progression. The Panthers sat back and watched as the Lions did little more than target Calvin Johnson on multiple throws in the second half. Quarterback Matthew Stafford did little in terms of varying his snap count or his depth of drop and the Panthers were able to tee off on him. The Steelers will need to incorporate the entire range of their offensive depth chart and do everything they can to create a sleight-of-hand game plan. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley likes to run multiple and vastly different plays from the same offensive sets. Look for him to try to get tight end Heath Miller more involved in the vertical game while utilizing the same stretch-and-spread tendencies the Steelers have shown early this season.

Steelers secondary becoming the primary

There's plenty of reason to expect the Panthers to run much the same kinds of things they've been doing; lots of play-action, bootlegs, zone read options and the like. The Steelers' secondary needs to remember, while the Panthers do this in an effort to bolster their running game, Cam Newton isn't looking to get the ball deep downfield outside the numbers. He throws aggressively down the seam in the middle of the field and he throws with touch on the outside of it. Discipline - something they've lacked to this point this year - is the key here. The Panthers' depleted running game likely isn't strong enough to fully establish the kind of play-action offense they want to employ, so staying true to the integrity of their assignment won't give the Panthers any easy looks down the field.

Stick around after Sunday Night Football for the premier of "Steelers Final Score," BTSC's live post-game call-in show.

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