POST GAME WRAP UP WEEK 15 by House of Steel:
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) at Carolina Panthers (6-7)
Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, North Carolina
Hello everyone, what a beautiful game the Steelers executed today in a desperation to keep their playoff hopes alive in the AFC North, but could it possibly be too late? The Steelers are finally playing like last year's Super Bowl Winning Team.
Willie Parker rushed for 132 yards and a TD, and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a score and ran for another to lead Pittsburgh (7-7) past the Carolina Panthers (6-8) to a 37-3 rout, delighting thousands of the loyal fans who turned Bank of America Stadium into Heinz Field South as a virtual Steelers Home Game. It was truly an amazing display for the Steeler Nation.
The Steelers had one heck of a display on special teams and their defense rose to the occassion blocking a punt and returned another for a touchdown as they won their third straight game and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers, who started 2-6, have allowed 13 points in the past three games.
It's still going to be very difficult for the Steelers to make the playoffs, but Carolina's chances are virtually over after it turned in another stinker of a game.
Chris Weinke, starting for the second straight week because of Jake Delhomme's thumb injury, threw for 170 yards and an interception and was sacked heavily 5 times for the Panthers, who lost their fourth straight game and rank as one of the NFL season's biggest bust.
Injuries continued to plague Carolina, as defensive end Mike Rucker left in the second quarter with a knee injury and receiver Drew Carter was knocked out in the third with a bad ankle.
The offensive line, without injuried guard Mike Wahle (shoulder), gave Weinke little time to throw as he fell to 1-16 as a starter.
This is turly an amazing stat, The Panthers were also limited to 8 yards rushing in the first half and 43 yards for the game.
But the Steelers are hitting stride behind Parker, who grew up nearby and was a little-used running back in college at North Carolina. He ran all over his local team, including a 41-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to put it away.
That touchdown run produced the biggest cheers, with nearly half the crowd rooting for the Steelers and thousands waving yellow Terrible Towels, you couldn't tell whether you was really in Carolina, it seems like BlitzBurgh South.
The ratio grew when many Carolina fans left at halftime with Pittsburgh leading 17-3.
Pittsburgh's lead grew to 27-3 on Parker's run and 34-3 on Santonio Holmes' 65-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. In a telling sequence to sum up the Panthers' season, Holmes' touchdown came after Carolina recovered a muffed punt deep in Pittsburgh territory, only to have the play wiped out by a penalty.
In the fourth quarter, rookie Anthony Smith intercepted Weinke and high-stepped out of bounds while holding the ball by his ear. The hot dog move led to a shoving match between several players and a lecture to Smith from Cowher.
Ben Roethlisberger, who was 11 for 18 for 140 yards and went over 3,000 yards passing for the first time in his career, was replaced by Charlie Batch late in the game.
After going three-and-out on their first three possessions, the Steelers took control.
Five plays after Rucker was helped off the field, Roethlisberger hooked up with Najeh Davenport for an 18 yard pass play on third-and-12. Roethlisberger followed with a 1-yard touchdown run off a bootleg on the first play of the second quarter.
Jeff Reed's 19-yard field goal midway through the second quarter made it 10-0.
Then after another three-and-out for Carolina, James Harrison smothered Jason Baker's punt deep in Carolina territory, the Steelers' first blocked punt since Sept. 2002.
Three plays later Roethlisberger threw a screen pass to Davenport, who rumbled down the center of the field for a 13-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
John Kasay's 37-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half gave the Panthers their only points.
I like to conclude this report with a key note, The Steelers have won 11 of their past 12 games against NFC teams..Panthers Tight End Kris Magnum (hip) and Running Back Nick Goings (shoulder) did not play...Steelers S Troy Polmalu (knee) sat out his third straight game.
It was truly memorable day here in Carolina in unusually warm weather. Truly was an early Christmas Present for the fans of the Steelers. Keeping this faint playoff hopes alive is the only thing the Steelers fan are holding on too. Next Weekend, Christmas Eve, the showdown of the AFC North, the leaders of the pack, Baltimore Ravens will be in town and it should be one hell of an ugly game. For all of us here in Charlotte, I am David Saurer aka HoS. Thank you for joining us here on the Post-Game Wrapup. Join us here next week live from Pittsburgh for the Pre-game show. Good Night and Happy Holidays.