Panthers Fall to 2-13; Pounded by Steelers 27-3 in Pittsburgh

The Panthers had little time to enjoy their win from last Sunday over the Cardinals, and playing on a short week in Pittsburgh, the team didn’t put up much of a fight, getting pounded in every phase by the Steelers 27-3.

The loss drops the Panthers to 2-13 on the season, and continues them towards the #1 overall pick in next April’s NFL Draft. It also continues the fast track towards the end for coach John Fox, who very well could be on the verge of coaching his final game with the Panthers next Sunday at Atlanta.

Carolina had the distinction of playing a Steelers team coming off a home loss Sunday to the Jets, and they were not too happy about that, and took it out on the Panthers all night.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger passed for 320 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score in the rout. Roethlisberger completed 22 of his 32 passes, including a 43-yard touchdown throw to Mike Wallace in the second quarter. Wallace had four catches for 104 yards and Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Already in the playoffs, the Steelers (11-4) can clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye if the Ravens lose to Cleveland on Sunday. If Baltimore wins, Pittsburgh would clinch with a victory over the Browns on January 2. Either way, the Steelers look to be in good shape.

The Panthers got their only points from John Kasay’s 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and continue to have the NFL’s worst record. Jimmy Clausen got a serious education in the loss, as he completed just 10-of-23 passes for 72 yards and Jonathan Stewart ran for 71 yards.

Pittsburgh forced a few big turnovers despite playing without ball-hound safety Troy Polamalu for the second straight game because of an ankle injury.

The Steelers got tight end Heath Miller back from a concussion and he led all receivers with five catches for 73 yards, including a 20-yard grab that helped set up Pittsburgh’s first points.

Shaun Suisham’s 26-yard field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead on their first series of the game, but only after a would-be touchdown catch by Emmanuel Sanders in the front of the end zone was ruled an incomplete pass.

Besides Miller’s catch, Mendenhall’s 35-yard carry on the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage was the other big play on the scoring drive.

Cornerback Bryant McFadden intercepted Clausen and Pittsburgh took a 10-0 lead on Wallace’s touchdown early in the second quarter. The speedy Wallace caught a short five-yard pass and stretched it an extra 38 yards down the middle of the field for the score.

The Steelers continued to pour it on, despite Roethlisberger fumbling a snap on their next possession. They got the ball back on a punt and Mendenhall scored on a one-yard run.

Suisham booted a 29-yard field goal to make it 20-0, but Pittsburgh was unable to capitalize when Carolina fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Suisham missed wide- right on 41-yarder at the end of the half.

A short Carolina punt and 22-yard pass interference penalty led to Roethlisberger’s one-yard keeper for a touchdown and 27-0 Steelers lead with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Carolina didn’t get on the board until Kasay’s 27-yard field goal with just 8:29 left in the game.

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