HOUSE OF STEEL'S PRE-GAME WEEK 15 REPORT:
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) at Carolina Panthers (6-7)
Good Day, everyone. Welcome to Bank of America Stadium. The Pittsburgh Steelers are here to visit the Carolina Panthers with much on the line for the Steelers and the Panthers to try and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Both the Steelers and Panthers may have waited too long to make their playoff push, while the Panthers may be playing their way out a postseason spot as the season winds down.
Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 27-7 in its last game on December 7th for its fourth victory in five games. The Super Bowl Champions, however, may have cost themselves a chance at defending their title by dropping six of their first eight contests.
The Steelers trail two 8-5 teams that beat them this year- Jacksonville and Cincinnati- in the AFC Wild-Card race. Denver, Kansas City, and the New York Jets are 7-6, while Buffalo and Miami are tied with the Steelers at 6-7.
The Panthers, on the other hand, lost their third straight last Sunday, falling 27-13 to the New York Giants. The defeat dropped them a game behind New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta, who are tied in the NFC Wild-Card hunt.
Carolina tried to remain optimistic following the loss.
Weinke could be called into duty again this weekend. Delhomme, who missed his first game in four seasons because of ligament damage in the thumb of his throwing hand, did not practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable.
Carolina has plenty of other injuries to worry about.
Cornerbacks Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble both missed the Giants game with hamstring injuries, forcing rookie Richard Marshall and Christian Morton to start in their place. Morton suffered a hamstring injury five minutes into the game and had to be replaced by undrafted rookie Dion Byrum.
The situation doesn't look much better this week- Morton was placed on injuried reserve, and Gamble and Lucas missed practice Wednesday and are questionable.
The Panthers ran for a season-low 45 yards last week despite the return of running back DeShaun Foster, who had missed two straight games with an elbow injury.
The Panthers, who allowed New York's Tiki Barber to run for 112 yards, will need to find a way to slow down Pittsburgh's Willie Parker. Parker ran for 223 yards against the Browns, setting the single-game franchise record.
Parker, who signed as an undrafted rookie in 2004, ran for 213 yards against New Orleans on Nov. 12 and is the only Pittsburgh player to post two 200-yard games in one season.
Parker could pose a problem for a Carolina defense that is allowing 110.3 rushing yards per game. Pittsburgh, which is 21-6 after Dec. 1 since 2001, outgained Cleveland 304-18 on the ground and had 528 total yards, its fifth game this season of 450 or more. The Steeler's defense also turned in a second straight strong performance one week after a 20-3 win over Tampa Bay.
The Steelers do have injury problems to talk about. Wide receiver Hines Ward (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee), who each missed the last two games, are listed as questionable for this match-up. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (high ankle sprain) is doubtful.
The Stats for the Game:
Ben Roethlisberger QB:
Pass att. 393
Pass comp. 236
Passing yards: 2952
Passing TDs: 15
Rushing att. 20
Rushing yards: 37
Rushing Avg: 1.9
Steve Smith WR:
Rec. yards: 1025
Rec. TDs: 6
Rec. avg.: 14.4
Rushing att.: 6
Rushing yds.: 45
Rushing TDs: 1
Rushing avg.: 7.5
CBS SPORTS PICKS OF THE GAME:
Saurer (HoS): Steelers
Steelers are favored 5-2
Doubtful: SS Mike Logan (hamstring)
SS Troy Polamalu (knee)
WR Cedrick Wilson (ankle)
Probable: FS Ryan Clark (groin)
C Jeff Hartings (knee)
WR Hines Ward (knee)
Questionable: WR Taye Biddle (groin)
QB Jake Delhomme (right thumb)
CB Chris Gamble (thigh)
RB Nick Goings (shoulder)
OLB Brandon Jamison (thigh)
CB Ken Lucas (thigh)
TE Kris Mangum (hip)
KEY TO THE GAME:
1. Open up the holes for the Speedy Parker: This is crucial and should not even be a problem for the OL of the Steelers since the Panthers are giving up 110.3 rushing yards a game. Could it be possible for another 200 + for Parker, I am afraid to say, darn possible with the injuries to the DL of the Panthers. Without a doubt, Parker could very well do it.
2. Holmes and Washington must step up to the plate: With the pending situation with Hines Ward, eventhough, Ward said he may start in Carolina, if he doesn't go, Santonio Holmes will start his second straight game. Both of these players have come on strong since Wilson and Ward been out. Holmes keeps getting better and better as well as Washington. With a Carolina banged up secondary, they should be able to have a field day.
3. Ben must be near perfection: Roethlisberger could very well have a very good performance here and be nearly perfect. All the ingredients and match-ups favor for Ben to have a banner day. NO INTERCEPTIONS, NO FUMBLES, NO TURNOVERS will mean a big Steelers victory to keep the playoff hopes alive.
1. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THIS GAME: SHUT DOWN WILLIE PARKER: This is going to be a very huge test for the defensive line of the Panthers to contain a very impressive and speedy Willie Parker. This guy can crank it up if the OL opens up the holes. If this comes about, expect Parker to have a banner day once again. VERY CRUCIAL to shut down the lanes and stuff the line.
2. Keep Ben in the pocket: A banged up Panthers secondary will have a hard time keeping their coverage on some speedy receivers. The DL will have their work cut out for them not only trying to contain a fast Willie Parker, but a dangerous and improving Ben Roethlisberger. Keeping him in the pocket will force mental errors and turnover. If they don't contain him, Ben is going to pass wild and run up the numbers.
3. All replacements player must step up: Those stepping into the lineup in place of the injuried starters will need to step up their game to even have a chance of upsetting the Steelers. There is a lot of uncertainity here and Coach John Fox knows the Steelers are a dangerous team.
The PREDICTION OF THE DAY BY HoS:
This game can surely swing either way, but I am going to be flatout straight up. Carolina is in for a very long day. They do not have the strength to contain Willie Parker. Giving up 110.3 yards a game rushing is not a favorable thing for them. I expect Willie to surpass possibly 150 and may even get up to 200+ once again and a pair of TDs. I expect Ben and the receivers to take extreme advantage of the depleted banged up Carolina secondary. This could be a game of blowouts.
STEELERS 31 PANTHERS 6.
This is House Of Steel reporting from Bank of America Stadium. Enjoy the game and keep on cheering the Pittsburgh Steelers as they continue to play hard for their slim chances to make the playoffs. So long everyone.