ReFo: Steelers @ Panthers, Week 3
Sunday Night Football played host to the Steelers running all over the Panthers. Ben Stockwell breaks down the most noteworthy performances.
ReFo: Steelers @ Panthers, Week 3
After being run over by the Ravens last Thursday night the Pittsburgh Steelers rolled into Charlotte last night and turned the tables on the previously undefeated Carolina Panthers. Combining steady gains on the ground with an explosive play apiece for their two headed monster at tailback the Steelers racked up more than 200 yards on the ground against an out of sorts Carolina defense.
The Steelers were out front for much of the game but a poorly timed special teams turnover ultimately put the game out of the Panthers’ reach. Only a late touchdown drive by Derek Anderson saw the Panthers pull within 20 points at the end of the game. Rarely has this Carolina defense played so poorly under Ron Rivera and they will be eager to turn that around against the Ravens this Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Performances of Note
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, +4.3
Breakdown: The ground game piled up the stats but when called upon Ben Roethlisberger was almost flawless in this game. Given the time against a Greg Hardy-less Panthers’ pass rush Big Ben was able to pump and manipulate the Panthers coverage at will to open plays up for his receivers.
Signature Stat: Though the focus of the offense was getting the ball out quickly (22-of-30 dropbacks released in 2.5 seconds or less, minus his spike) Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 151.5 when he held the ball for longer than 2.5 seconds.
Cameron Heyward, DE, +3.1
Breakdown: One of the culprits in a poor defensive performance against the Ravens last Thursday, Heyward was back to his best this week against run and pass. A trio of pressures, plus his sack that was nullified by offsetting holding penalties, were paired with some strong work in run defense in an immediate rebound.
Signature Play: At 10:04 in the fourth Heyward dominated right guard Trai Turner, driving through the rookie’s outside shoulder to hit Cam Newton just after he threw. He received no extra grade for knocking down Joey Porter with a chest bump after the play.
Marcus Gilbert, RT, +4.3
Breakdown: After surrendering a pair of sacks in each of the first two games of the season Gilbert had one of the best games of his career last night. Surrendering only one hurry, with Charles Johnson rushing from his side 27 times, Gilbert also provided some strong run blocking in particular on a couple of dominant double teams against Star Lotulelei.
Signature Stat: This was Gilbert’s first positive overall grade since Week 16 of last season, the first of what the Steelers will hope to be more to come after his August extension.
Carolina Panthers Performances of Note
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, +0.8
Breakdown: A blend of his Week 1 and Week 2 on display with a solitary drop in an otherwise powerful display from the Panthers’ first round pick. The Panthers got Benjamin matched up on a multitude of defenders with his eight catches coming against five different Steelers en route to the first 100 yard game of his career.
Signature Stat: On top of his receiving yards Benjamin also drew a pair of illegal contact penalties from Cortez Allen in the third quarter.
Thomas DeCoud, S, -4.2
Breakdown: Outmatched against the Steelers’ power backs DeCoud surrendered four missed tackles last night (two apiece to Bell and Blount), his most in a single game since Week 6 in 2012. Also committing a clumsy pass interference penalty in the first quarter this was definitely a game to forget for DeCoud.
Signature Play: In addition to his missed tackles DeCoud was dragged to the endzone by Blount with 5:46 remaining in the game after meeting him at the five yard line.
Byron Bell, LT, -4.0
Breakdown: A solid start to the season in pass protection gave way for Bell last night as he struggled to hold up with the Panthers chasing the game. The sack he surrendered to Jarvis Jones was as much about great effort by Jones as anything on Bell’s part but the quartet of hurries that followed in the final 22 minutes to Arthur Moats may raise some concerns.
Signature Play: The first of those hurries came with 7:15 remaining in the third quarter giving up the outside too easily to Moats who bore down on Cam Newton as he found Philly Brown on a slant for a third down conversion.
PFF Game Ball
Both Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount took emphatic advantage of some efficient double teaming by their offensive line and poor pursuit angles by the Carolina defense to rack up some eye-popping numbers on the ground.
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.