The 2-0 Carolina Panthers look to keep their record unblemished as they host the 1-1 Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium. The matchup marks the first time Carolina quarterback Cam Newton will take on the Steelers defense, though the Dick Lebeau led side hasn’t exactly impressed during the first two weeks of the season.
Ranking 30th against the run, the Steelers are allowing 174 yards on the ground and 26.5 points per game thus far. And while the secondary is ranked seventh overall, Pittsburgh has yet to force a single turnover.
Newton and the Panthers are on the verge of their first 3-0 start since the 2008 season, when they made their first and only Super Bowl appearance. But Carolina isn’t rushing the ball as well as it has in the past.
The Panthers opened the year with a 20-14 win at Tampa Bay, and then shutdown the Detroit 24-7, highlighted by Newton’s return from a rib injury and the start of defensive end Greg Hardy’s likely prolonged absence.
Newton went 22-for-34 for 281 yards and a touchdown while taking a worrisome four sacks. Carolina also struggled to muster any sort of a run game, gaining 62 total yards with running back DeAngelo Williams out due to a hamstring injury.
The Panthers, however, do expect Williams to return against Pittsburgh after he resumed practice on Friday. Williams is the Panthers all-time leading rusher with 6,699 yards.
Meanwhile Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could miss a big part of his offensive line, with guard Ramon Foster listed as questionable with an ankle injury. The Steelers o-line has done a solid job thus far of protecting Roethlisberger, allowing five sacks in two games. If Foster is out, the Steelers will likely start center Cody Wallace, who started four games last season.
Fourth in the NFL with 582 passing yards, Roethlisberger will need extra protection against a Panthers pass rush that’s totaled seven sacks this season. Roethlisberger will rely on top receiver Antonio Brown, and emerging second-year running back Le’Veon Bell to move the ball upfield.
Pittsburgh is coming off a disappointing 26-6 loss to AFC North rival Baltimore. Turnovers were the main culprit for the letdown, with Roethlisberger throwing his second pick of the season and two fumbles lost by tight end Heath Miller and receiver Justin Brown.
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: NBC
Live Online Stream Info: A live stream is available at SNF All Access here
Betting Odds: Carolina -3
Over/Under: 42 points
Prediction: Carolina 20, Pittsburgh 17