Free safety Ryan Clark hadn’t been happy with the defense after the Steelers had lost a hard-fought, 22-17 decision to the Jets and he still wasn’t thrilled following Thursday night’s 27-3 demolition of the Panthers.
Clark isn’t the Grinch Who Stole the Thrill of Victory. He just has high standards.
“We didn’t get the shutout,” Clark lamented. “We were really pushing for it. I think it would have been a big statement for us going into next week (and the regular season finale at Cleveland).
“And we started very slow. And that’s kind of two weeks in a row _ look at the Jets game _ (the Panthers) were able to run the ball early. So we need to pick that up.”
Carolina’s game-opening drive lasted 11 plays and netted 42 yards, by far the Panthers’ longest of the night. It reached the Steelers’ 32-yard line but ended with a punt.
The Panthers’ drive for the fourth-quarter field goal that achieved the game’s final score lasted six plays and covered 14 yards after starting at the Steelers’ 23 following a punt return.
Still, Clark has his standards, and he isn’t alone in that regard among Steelers defenders.
“We wanted to get the shutout, obviously,” said cornerback William Gay. “I mean, playing in the Steelers organization, you have all these great defenses on the wall that you’re trying to live up to.
“Shutouts are expected. We had an opportunity to get a shutout but we didn’t do it.”
The Panthers got their three points with 8:29 remaining in the game.
Their 60-minute totals included seven first downs, 3-for-13 on third down (23 percent), 0-for-1 on fourth down, 119 total net yards and a 2.4-yard average gain per offensive play.
And this despite strong safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith exiting the locker room at Heinz Field just as the media was gaining entrance, as injured players who don’t play often do.
Ryan Mundy filled in for Polamalu for a second consecutive game.
“Troy’s status is always evaluated week to week, and he’s probably the most important player on our team,” Mundy said. “If he’s ready to go (at Cleveland) I’m sure he’ll go. If not, I’m ready to step in again.
“Our goal is a shutout every game. We believe we have the people to do that and we have the coaches to do that. Sometimes things don’t always go our way. We bounce back and we play the next play. That’s the philosophy of our defense.”
A great deal went the way of the Steelers’ defense in its pummeling of the Panthers.
Clark expected as much of and demanded as much from the defense given the circumstances.
“You know, 2-12 team, it was kind of cold, they got behind, they’re a running football team, they’re not really a come-from-behind team, rookie quarterback (Jimmy Clausen) against Coach LeBeau, not really a matchup at all,” Clark said. “We did some good things schematically and the guys got pressure.”