By Michael Shouse
In this my opening column, I would like to look at our next opponent the Carolina Panthers. This will be a statistical comparison or snapshot of how the Panthers match up with the Steelers. The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the league and come in with an abysmal 2-12 record Thursday night. This is John Fox’s last season at the helm and it would seem to most observers that this team has simply quit on Fox. On the season the Panthers have given up 282 first downs and only gained 206. They have allowed 114 via the pass, 71 vs. the run, and 21 via penalty. The Steelers on the other hand have converted 249 first downs and given up 248. 144 through the air, 94 through the ground and 11 through penalty. On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers enter Thursday Night’s game 3rd in the NFL in team defense. The Panthers enter the contest at #12, the Steelers are entering the game giving up 15.7 points per game and allowing 291.8 yards per game. 228.4 yards through the air and a historic 63.4 in the running game. The Panthers are allowing a whopping 25 points per game and 329.6 yards per game. 203.4 through the air and 126.2 on the ground. The Steelers are 3rd in the league with 40 sacks. The Panthers are 19th in the league with 27. This seems to imply that coordinator Bruce Arians should formulate a game-plan built on balance as Carolina is susceptible to the run and the pass.
On the offensive side of the ball the Steelers come into the game ranked 19th overall in the league. While the Panthers come up dead last. The problem for Carolina has been its quarterback problems. They have not gotten any consistent production from the position all year long. The Steelers offense has been particularly good this year in 3rd downs at 42.5 % , none more evident than in the 96 yard drive against the Jets that converted 7 third downs. The Jets defense had allowed only 6 first downs in the previous game against Miami. Carolina on the other hand is only converting 31% of their 3rd downs. In the running game the Steelers have the 8th best rushing attack in the league, the Panthers are 12th. Pittsburgh averages 29 attempts per game and 122 yards per game. The Panthers average 27 attempts per game and 116 yards. In the passing game is where the difference between both teams is so clearly visible. The Steelers rank 18th in the league in passing completing 61 percent and 213.5 yards per game with a rating of 90.9. The Panthers are dead last completing only 53.2 percent of their passes and only 149 yards per game with an abysmal rating of 57.3. The Steelers average Yard per attempt is 6.6 while the Panthers is 4.4. Clearly Pittsburgh has an advantage on both sides of the ball.
The game-plan for the defense will revolve around shutting the offense of the Panthers down and making the Panthers beat you through the air. Something that for most of the season they have been utterly unable to do. On offense the Panthers defense has shown a clear susceptibility to both the run and the pass. A balanced attack will open up play-action passes and allow the Steelers to go vertical. One never should underestimate an opponent but if the Steelers come to play their game and I expect them to do so, this game could get ugly quick. I hope this snapshot provided a glimpse into our opponent and their tendencies. Everyone enjoy the game and Here we Go Steelers!!!!
You can follow Michael on Twitter at @SteelersTide74.