5 Steelers surprises in Sunday’s win over the Panthers

Each week our SCU staff and contributors picks the “surprises” from the Pittsburgh Steelers latest matchup. Check out more below to see which plays and situations surprised us the most!

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers met the Carolina for their Week 15 matchup at Bank of America Stadium.

The Steelers would win their sixth game of the season by a margin of 24-16. Here are some of the surprises from that game.

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how long?

The Steelers put together a 21-play, 91-yard drive which elapsed 11:43 of game time in the third quarter.

Due to penalties, the drive actually netted 106 yards and is the longest series in the entire league since the 2019 season.

The fact that a Matt Canada-led, Mitch Trubisky-led, drive was able to be sustained in this fashion is the real surprise!

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good mitch

Mitchell Trubisky shows up in my column again this week, more or less because of what he didn’t do than he did do.

After being a bath surprise last week against the Ravens, Trubisky completed 17-of-22 of his passes for 179 yards, including a 38-yard connection with WR George Pickens.

Trubisky wouldn’t throw for a touchdown – or an interception – but he would run for a score, while also stretching out in several short-yardage situations otherwise, to convert first downs.

While his numbers weren’t eyebrow raising, he did enough as a game manager to keep the Panthers out of the game.

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Run Game

The Steelers running game came alive again on Sunday, as the team had a season-high 45 carries for 156 yards.

After only topping 100 yards on the ground in three of their first eight games, Pittsburgh now has gained over 100 yards on the ground in five of their last six since the bye week.

Three different players scored a rushing touchdown, including Trubisky, Jaylen Warren, and Najee Harris – who topped all runners with 86 yards. Despite still not topping 100 in a game this season, Harris is only 210 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season, with three games to go.

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The Panthers entered Sunday’s game as one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks. They went into halftime with only 14 yards rushing – a 1.4 average on 10 attempts!

If you think that’s bad, then it only got worse for Carolina, as they’d run the ball 6 more times for a total of 7 additional yards – half of what they had in the first half.

They would finish with 21 yards on the ground, a 1.3 average. It was a real hats-off performance for Teryl Austin and his defence.

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Dumb penalties

I’d be remiss to not mention both of the bad penalties from the Steelers in this game. One came from Diontae Johnson after a hard-fought play that converted on third down.

Johnson stood over a Panthers defender, flexing emotionally after breaking more than one tackle to get to the sticks.

While that outburst could be forgiven – since it didn’t kill the drive and the Steelers finished with a score – another is less forgivable.

Marcus Allen, a mainstay on special teams this season, entered the game as Carolina’s punt team entered at the close of the third quarter. TV went to a commercial break, but returned with bizarre footage of the Steelers player inside of the Panthers huddle.

The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty took away what was a 4th-and-27 situation, and gave the Panthers an automatic first down. Unlike Johnson’s penalty, this one led to Panthers points – closing the game to 21-10 – and could’ve had a worse impact had the opponent scored from the Steelers 10-yard line.

I have no idea what Allen was thinking, but it’s clear he wasn’t. Even if his actions were ultimately justified, he has to be aware of the perception of what was transpiring – and be proactive in not hurting his team.

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