It’s a big game on Thursday Night Football between two play-off chasing teams on hot streaks as the Pittsburgh Steelers entertaining the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field.
The Panthers arrive on the back of a three-game win streak while the Steelers have put together a four-game run that has turned a muddling start into a 5-2-1 record and first place in the AFC North.
The week four loss to Baltimore sparked Pittsburgh into life as they’ve won every game since, averaging over 31 points per contest. Ben Roethlisberger has hit his straps at quarterback with an average 311 yards per game and 16 touchdowns.
It’s been running back James Conner, though, who has hit the headlines as he’s stepped in for the AWOL Le’Veon Bell and been a revelation – actually out-performing the absent star over their respective last eight games with 1085 yards and ten scores.
Defence has always been key in Pittsburgh and a leaky outfit has tightened up of late with no more than 21 points allowed in four games and a season-low 16 at Baltimore last week.
The defence will be tested against a high-flying Panthers attack under a quarterback, Cam Newton, who has posted 78 points in two games and has eclipsed 30 points in four of the last six.
Newton is a huge danger, especially now he has tight end Greg Olsen back as his top target, while his running prowess and partnership with running back Christian McCaffrey presents a real headache for the Steelers defence to solve.
McCaffrey has 880 yards and five touchdowns and can hurt teams both running and catching passes out of the backfield, while Newton is becoming a master of faking a hand-off to his lively back and running the ball himself.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has also pulled out the odd trick play as he’s thrown the playbook wide open in recent weeks, so that adds another string to the formidable bow of the visiting Panthers.
They also rank eighth against the run, and that battle with Conner, who has four straight 100-yard games, could well be the deciding factor in this one.