CHARLOTTE — The Pittsburgh Steelers avoided falling officially out of the playoff race, despite playing without their starting quarterback. Mitch Trubiksy, making his first start since being benched in Week 4, was efficient and smart with the football and led the Steelers to a road win over a surging Carolina Panthers team, 21-10 at Bank of America Stadium.
The Steelers won the toss and deferred their option until the second half. Stout run defense forced the Panthers into a third and long and Alex Highsmith finished off the drive by wrapping up Chubba Hubbard short of the sticks on a screen pass.
After the front seven of the Steelers defense dominated the line of scrimmage to open the game, the offensive line did just the same. They paved the way for 30 yards on the ground from Najee Harris, who recorded the game’s first score with a seven-yard touchdown run off the left tackle.
Trailing 7-0, Carolina’s offense found it’s sea legs. Sam Darnold completed five of six passes for 87 yards – on a drive that went 85 yards – and a touchdown to knot the game at seven with 14:19 to go until halftime. He hit Terrance Marshall for a gain of 41 yards in between James Pierre and Damonte Kazee and fired a laser to the front corner of the endzone for a five-yard scoring connection with D.J. Moore.
The Steelers offense continued to hum, with Harris and Jaylen Warren running hard to earn a couple of first downs and Trubisky hitting George Pickens for 38 yards along the sideline. Warren finished off the drive with four straight runs for 18 yards, the fourth of which was a touchdown run from two yards out.
The scoring slowed and defense won out the rest of the way until halftime. After scoring their latest touchdowns, both offenses ran just nine plays and combined for one first down. The Steelers carried their 14-7 lead into halftime.
Steven Sims opened the second half with a 30-yard kickoff return but an illegal blindside block penalty on Miles Killebrew negated the gain. The Steelers offense started at their own nine yard line and marched methodically down the field to extend their lead. They drove 106 yards – a taunting penalty on Diontae Johnson set them back 15 yards – but five third down conversions kept the drive alive until Trubisky ran a sneak in for a touchdown to cap the 11:43-long drive and put the Steelers up 21-7 with 3:20 to go in the third quarter.
The Steelers forced Carolina into a punting situation on their next drive thanks to back-to-back sacks from Alex Highsmith and Cameron Heyward. But Marcus Allen committed a mystifying personal foul after he infiltrated a Panthers huddle during the dead ball timeout. Instead of punting, Carolina could take shots at the endzone from the Steelers 34 yard line. The defense stood tall nonetheless and forced a 29-yard field goal from Eddy Pineiro that drew the home team closer at 21-10 with 11:57 left to play in regulation.
Trubisky and company couldn’t mount a response and punted after a three-and-out. A pass interference call on Cam Sutton – one he vehemently disagreed with – moved the Panthers up into scoring range but once again the Steelers’ defensive line halted the drive by themselves. They stuffed Donta Foreman for a loss and sacked Darnold on consecutive plays to force another field goal from Pineiro, bringing the Panthers within one score at 21-13 with 6:19 left in regulation.
Then it became time for the Steelers offense to try and shut the door. They faced two third and longs early in the drive but converted both, with Trubisky hitting Johnson for both conversions. 10 yards on three carries from Warren forced Carolina to burn a pair of timeouts before the two-minute warning. After burning their final timeout, the Panthers stuffed Harris on third and six. But Chris Boswell came out for his first field goal attempt of the day and nailed it from 50 yards out to put the game essentially out of reach at 24-11 with 1:04 to play.
The Panthers drove into Steeler territory in just 45 seconds and kicked a 52-yard field goal to bring it back to a one-score game, but couldn’t recover the onside kick and Pittsburgh knelt out the rest of the clock to secure the win.
Find great deals on Steelers tickets from SI Tickets HERE
Make sure you bookmark All Steelers for the latest news, exclusive interviews, film breakdowns and so much more!
Steelers Name Mitch Trubisky Starting QB
Steelers Who Could, And Should Make the Pro Bowl
Mike Tomlin Linked to Panthers in Offseason Trade
Diontae Johnson Wants Mason Rudolph to Start Over Mitch Trubisky
Ben Roethlisberger is Right About Steelers
Antonio Brown Adds Wild Twist to Police Chase