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Steelers 52, Panthers 21: Six takeaways from Steelers win

It seemed awfully cold for August Thursday night at Heinz Field.

The Steelers were playing the Panthers and Joshua Dobbs was at quarterback.

Must have been Week 4 of the preseason, right?

Nope. This game counted.

The Steelers steamrolled the Panthers 52-21, putting up some scoreboard-tilting numbers that provide a perfect opportunity for some takeaways, number-crunching and did-you-knows.

Ben Roethlisberger‘s perfect night

Ben Roethlisberger did play Thursday night, but he was only needed for about three quarters. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns, giving him a perfect passer rating (158.3) for the fourth time in his career but the first time since 2007.

That’s right. Roethlisberger never had a perfect passer rating while Todd Haley was his offensive coordinator. The Steelers have scored 279 points this season, an average of 31 points per game. They’re on pace to score 496. The franchise record is 436 in 2014, according to Pro Football Reference.

Heading into this season, Haley was the offensive coordinator for four of the six highest-scoring seasons in Steelers’ history. But for all the talk about the Steelers’ prolific offense over the past few seasons, those 436 points in 2014 rank only 71st in NFL history, according to Sporting Charts.

With an offensive coordinator in Randy Fichtner who just lets Roethlisberger do his thing, the Steelers might finally have an offense that’s considered among the best of all-time.

Power ranking

The Steelers improved to 6-2-1 and the Panthers dropped to 6-3. This win allows Steelers fans for the next 10 days to enjoy their team’s status as the third-best in the AFC and also the third-best in the NFC if they were in that conference.

For now, the Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams all are a cut above the Steelers, although the Steelers will have a chance to say something about that when they play the Patriots in Week 15 and the Saints in Week 16.

The Chargers probably will be 7-2 after winning at Oakland on Sunday. They’ve only lost to the Rams and Chiefs, but their most impressive win was last week at the 4-4 Seahawks.

How impressive was the Steelers’ win on Thursday? That’s our next takeaway.

A historic rout

This was the 29th time in Steelers history that they’ve won by 31 or more points. The last time they beat a team with this high of a winning percentage by that many points was Week 2 of the 1979 season when they beat the Houston Oilers 38-7 at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Oilers were 1-0 going into that game. That’s not a big sample size, but they went on to face the Steelers in the 1979 AFC championship game, so it was a quality win.

The previous four times the Steelers won by 31 or more, they faced starting quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck (Colts, 2015), who was 40 at the time, Colt McCoy (Browns, 2010), Jason Campbell (Raiders, 2010) and Bruce Gradkowski (Browns, 2008).

The last time the Steelers won by 31 against a quarterback of Cam Newton‘s caliber was 2007, when they beat Steve McNair and the Ravens 38-7. That team went to two of the next four Super Bowls.


How long has it been since the Steelers last scored 52 points in a game?

Well, the only player on the current Steelers roster who was born at the time is Ben Roethlisberger. He was 2 when the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers 52-24 at Pittsburgh on Nov. 25, 1984.

The Steelers have scored more than 52 points only three times. They won 57-33 at Atlanta in 1966. They beat the Browns 55-27 in 1954 and the Giants 63-7 in 1952.

Thrilling Thursday

The Steelers won their third straight Thursday game and improved to 12-14 all-time on Thursdays.

For a few years there, Thursdays were bad luck for the Steelers. Their last Thursday loss was Josh Scobee‘s infamous implosion in a 23-20 overtime defeat against the then-winless Ravens in 2015. There was the Mike Tomlin Footgate game at Baltimore on Thanksgiving in 2013, and we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of the Phil Luckett Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

The Steelers also have had some costly victories on Thursdays. Willie Parker broke his leg and was lost for the season in a 2007 win at St. Louis. Troy Polamalu‘s 2009 season was essentially ruined when he hurt his knee in a season-opening win over the Titans. Ben Roethlisberger injured his foot and missed a game in a 2011 Thursday win over the Browns.

This win over the Panthers is the Steelers’ greatest Thursday win of all-time, for the very little that it’s worth. And here’s a nugget that’s worth even less. Mike Tomlin improved his Thursday record to 8-6. Bill Cowher was 2-3 and Chuck Noll was 1-4. Noll’s Thursday record probably would have been better, but he didn’t coach a Thursday game until 1980, when the Emperor’s dynasty was in decline.

Looking ahead

When the NFL schedule came out in April and we saw the Steelers at Jacksonville in Week 11, we thought it would be a showdown between elite AFC teams. Instead, it’s turned into the kind of game against an inferior opponent that the Steelers have been prone to lose during the Mike Tomlin era.

The Jaguars have lost four straight and are 3-5 heading into Sunday’s game at Indianapolis. If Blake Bortles plays badly enough on Sunday, Week 11 could turn into a Landry Jones revenge game. He was signed by the Jaguars last week.

If that does happen, NBC will be really glad it flexed the game out of prime time. If the Steelers lose this trap game that now kicks off at 1 p.m., a lot of the shine will wear off of Thursday night’s epic performance.

But if they take care of business, the message they sent Thursday night will continue to resonate.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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